Memorial Day color guard amid coronavirus

Story by Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart

Members of the U.S. European Command honor guard perform during a private Memorial Day ceremony on Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany. The ceremony was private in the hopes of recording it and broadcasting to the community, who remain socially distanced due to COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Krystal Wright, AFN Stuttgart)

STUTTGART, Germany – With COVID-19 restrictions in Germany and other European countries, U.S. European Command’s HQ Commandant Joint Color Guard took part in a ceremony unlike any before – spread out along Patch Barracks’ Washington Square, wearing masks. 

Normally, EUCOM’s color guard would be away on Memorial Day, supporting remembrance events at one of the 21 American Battle Monuments Commission-run cemeteries in Europe, the resting place of thousands of Americans killed World War I and World War II. 

Last year, the color guard was in Italy, at the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial, said Army Staff Sgt. Adam Gasiewicz, a satellite communication specialist who served on the team for more than two years. This year coronavirus restrictions posed a challenge for the color guard, Gasiewicz said. 

“The difficult part is, normally we are close together. But, we had to be spread apart,” said Gasiewicz, who carried the EUCOM colors. “We had to make sure we weren’t violating any rules. Trying to gauge the distance is a little different.”

Videographers taped the May 15 ceremony for a virtual Memorial Day that ABMC will share online. Organizers paid special attention to follow both host nation and military rules amid coronavirus restrictions, to include physical distancing, reduced numbers and face covering for participants. 

Because the color guard is well-practiced, they already know each other’s little quirks, Gasiewicz said. It didn’t take long to adapt to the changes. Plus, they knew their work was a tribute to fallen military members.

“We know we have pretty big shoes to fill and we’ll never fill them,” Gasiewicz said. “The ones who did made the ultimate sacrifice.” 

Following the playing of the German and U.S. national anthems, and a prayer by the EUCOM chaplain, Lt. Gen. Stephen Twitty, Deputy Commander, EUCOM, offered remarks. 

“While coronavirus had disrupted life around the world to an unprecedented degree, we continue the Memorial Day tradition,” Twitty said. “A global pandemic does not lessen our commitment to honoring our fallen heroes.” 

Twitty and Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Phillip Easton, EUCOM’s senior enlisted leader, unveiled a wreath. Taps followed a moment of silence. 

Afterward, Air Force Tech Sgt. Lindon Bell, a human resources specialist who has served with EUCOM’s color guard for three years, reflected on his experience. Memorial Day amid COVID-19 was much different than ceremonies he’d done in the past, to include ones in Estonia, France, Italy, Belgium, and Luxembourg. 

What remained the same, Bell said, was the teamwork and camaraderie. 

“We’ve worked together on multiple occasions,” Bell said. “When you work with a team like this, you get a feeling when everything has come together.” 

Taking part in this ceremony was a proud moment for the Jamaica native.

“I moved to be part of the U.S. military,” Bell said. “I’m grateful for the opportunities it’s given me to include paying homage to the people who have come before us and laid down their lives for us.”


Video by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Castellano, AFN Stuttgart