Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened nearly 2 million travelers Friday heading into the Memorial Day weekend, an indication Americans are traveling again as COVID vaccinations are now widespread, The Hill reported.
TSA spokeswoman Alexa Lopez confirmed 1.96 million passengers, airport workers, and aircrew were screened Friday and the numbers were "creeping up to 2 million," as 1,854,534 passed through airport checkpoints Thursday, the second-most traveled day since pandemic hit.
Nearly 43 million U.S. citizens were expected to hit the roads this weekend, according to AAA, which represents the highest number of people traveling on the highways since the beginning of the pandemic, the U.K.'s Daily Mail reported.
The increase in travel is in part due to COVID-19 restrictions being fully lifted in many places, as well as the daily increase in the numbers of persons vaccinated.
Around the nation, Americans will be able to pay tribute to fallen troops in ways that were impossible last year, when virus restrictions were in effect in many places. It will also be a time to remember the tens of thousands of veterans who died from COVID-19 and recommit to vaccinating those who remain reluctant.
"This Memorial Day almost has a different, better feeling to it," said Craig DeOld, a 50-year-old retired captain in the Army Reserve, as he took a breather from his flag duties at the Fairview Cemetery earlier this week, PBS reported.
"We're breathing a sigh of relief that we've overcome another struggle, but we're also now able to return to what this holiday is all about — remembering our fallen comrades."
Art delaCruz, a 53-year-old retired Navy commander in Los Angeles leads the Veterans Coalition for Vaccination, said his group has been encouraging inoculated veterans to volunteer at vaccine sites to dispel myths and help assuage concerns, many of which are also shared by current service members.
"We understand it's a personal choice, so we try to meet people where they are," said delaCruz, who is also president of Team Rubicon, a disaster-response nonprofit made up of military veterans.
There is no definitive tally for coronavirus deaths or vaccinations among American military vets, but Department of Veterans Affairs data shows more than 12,000 have died and more than 2.5 million have been inoculated against COVID-19 out of the roughly 9 million veterans enrolled in the agency's programs.
Back in Boston, DeOld will be thinking about his father, an Army vet wounded in a grenade attack in Vietnam.
Louis DeOld returned home with a Purple Heart and went on to become a police officer in New Jersey, but the physical and mental scars of war persisted long after, his son said. He died in 2017 at the age of 70.
On Memorial Day, DeOld will gather with fellow vets at the VFW post in the city's Dorchester neighborhood that he commands.
They will lay a wreath by the American flag out front and then grill burgers out back. It will be the first large social event hosted by the post since the pandemic virtually shuttered the hall more than a year ago.
"I hope it's nice," DeOld said. "I hope folks linger. Families and friends gather. Good camaraderie. The way it should be."
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