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Memorial Day even more heart-wrenching for veterans’ kin due to coronavirus

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Memorial Day has become even more heart-wrenching amid the coronavirus.

With much of the nation on lockdown, grieving kin of late military veterans have been left to honor their relatives without the support of traditional parades or group graveside remembrances.

And for some families of veterans, the contagion will not only prevent special public commemorations Monday, it’s also what actually killed their loved ones.

“The veterans should have especially been taken care of, and they weren’t. It’s despicable,’’ said Rosemarie Rado, whose father, Korean War veteran Daniel Rado, 92, died of COVID-19 at the Paramus Veterans Home in New Jersey about three weeks ago.

The state-run nursing home has been an infamous epicenter for the virus in the country, with a coronavirus death toll of at least 79.

Louise Lombardi, 61, of Baldwin, LI, said she usually participates every year in the Flags Across America event, where volunteers put small Old Glories at gravestones in military cemeteries for the holiday.

But this year, because of social-distancing rules stemming from the deadly pandemic, she put a face mask on Sunday — and privately stuck a flag into the ground at the grave of her father, World War II vet Joseph Lombardi, at the Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale.

“There were a lot of vets there today that were disappointed that this event could not go on,’’ Lombardi told The Post of the group flag-planting.

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“For the people we memorialize, circumstances didn’t matter to them,’’ said the Long Island woman, whose father died 55 years ago. “They still had to fight for our freedom.

“There was no such thing as lockdown for them.”

class="wp-caption aligncenter">Louise Lombardi honoring her father with her fiance Dan Bailey.
Louise Lombardi honoring her father with her fiance Dan Bailey.Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Kristie Espinal’s 94-year-old grandfather, Joseph Guagenti, a Purple Heart recipient from Queens who served in World War II, died of suspected coronavirus at the end of April.

She said the holiday will be especially hard this year because of her grandfather’s death — and the lack of public gatherings to honor heroes such as him.

“They usually have a little Memorial Day parade in our neighborhood, but unfortunately, it was canceled,’’ said Espinal, who like her grandfather is from Howard Beach.

“So [Monday], we’re going to honor another veteran who’s still alive and 99 years old, and people are going to do a drive by and pass his house because he’s stuck in the house and really sad.

“I’m going to take my two sons … [and] in honor of Grampa, we’ll pass by, we’ll wave. What else can you do?” she said.

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Espinal, 38, said that fortunately, her grandfather was laid to rest

at a mausoleum, and the family is still able to visit the site.



“I can’t image being told that you can’t go and see your loved ones at this time, when you want to remember,’’ she said of other families and their friends who have been told not to congregate in large groups at grave sites.

“They played such a vital role for this country, and to not be able to honor them the way they should be honored is terrible,’’ she said of late service members. “To me, veterans are No. 1.’’

Arnold Haber’s son, Mitchel, whose Bronx-born dad served in the Korean War and died of the coronavirus at the Paramus nursing home in April, told The Post that surviving veterans at the facility must be distraught over the decimated holiday.

“It’s their holiday, and there’s no one there to celebrate them,’’ he said.

On a regular Memorial Day, “We’d be in the nursing home having a party. They always had a great party, with entertainment,’’ Mitchel Haber said.

“They just aren’t doing any of that’’ this year because of the virus,’’ he said.

“The [veterans] that do remember, they look forward to this day. It’s going to be very lonely for them.’’

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The son added that his dad was very proud of his service and would wear an American flag baseball hat every day and had a flag tied to his wheelchair.

“He was a staff photographer for his unit. … He would always tell stories, he remembered everything,’’ Mitchel said.

“He wasn’t able to get a military sendoff because of the pandemic,’’ the son said. “But it would have been “something he would have loved.”

Another Paramus nursing-home resident and veteran, Robert Hopp, died of COVID-19 in April.

The Vietnam War vet and Purple Heart recipient was 70 years old.

His family said they have no idea how they will commemorate his heroism this Memorial Day.

“We couldn’t even have a funeral for him yet,” stepson J.J. Brania-Hopp said. “There’s not really anything we can do right now. All we’ll probably do is talk about him, maybe go for a walk out in the sun.”

According to the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 1,000 veterans have died from the virus across the country — although that figure does not include the hundreds more who succumbed in facilities such as the Paramus nursing home.

With AP

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