COVID-19 pandemic forces Liberation Day festivities indoors

FLAGS: Each year, the various government agencies post the American and Guam flags in honor of the island's Liberation Day. This year's celebrations have been paused due to COVID-19. Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, as part of this year's more somber remembrance, has ordered that flags will be flown at half staff from July 17-24. Haruo Simion/The Guam Daily Post.

The island’s 76th Liberation Day festivities have been canceled due to the pandemic, but the island’s elected officials are urging the community to honor the island’s war survivors, liberators and those who lost their lives in the war.

“We are battling a very different enemy – an invisible one. COVID-19 is a threat to each of us, but our manåmko’ are among our most vulnerable. For that reason, we cannot celebrate the way we are used to,” Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said in an online proclamation-signing conference Thursday.

“We cannot gather as family to pay homage to their lives. Our grand gestures and memorials must be paused. To honor them together, we must stay apart to keep our loved ones safe from this deadly virus,” she added.

For decades, Guam has celebrated Liberation Day – July 21, the day U.S. military personnel liberated the island from the three-year occupation of Japanese imperial forces. From the end of June to early August, there are memorials at different sites of the island where CHamoru people were held captive or slain.

On July 21, the island typically gathers for its largest celebration of the year – military planes fly overhead to officially commence the celebration, motorcycle and car groups stroll down a parade route, and local and military bands perform, along with various cultural, community and school groups. Elaborate floats from different government agencies, organizations and villages are driven down Marine Corps Drive.

On Thursday, the governor proclaimed July a "Month of Reflection, Recognition, and Remembrance of Guam’s 76th Liberation Day." The proclamation noted flags will be flown at half staff from July 17-24.

“I ask that each of you use the month of July – not just July 21st – to reflect, recognize and remember the events of the Japanese occupation,” she stated.

“You can pray. You can speak with manåmko’ from a distance or by telephone or video call, because we must remember that while their memories will last forever, the sun must eventually set. You can also thank a veteran. And if you have a Guam or American flag at home or business, please display them proudly to honor the brave men and women who answered the call to serve – an act that secured our freedom, our way of life, and the peace and prosperity we enjoy today.”

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