Thursday, April 23 is Veterans' Day in Estonia, a relatively new tradition which is now in its eighth year. The day is marked by a hoisting of the national flag, which due to the coronavirus restrictions can only be done in individual events involving minimal numbers of people, with mass events off the table.
The solemnities began at 7 a.m. Thursday morning with the hoisting of the national flag, under the leadership of the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit) and regular Estonian Defence Forces' (EDF) personnel.
The EDF and defense league called on the nation to recognize and show their support for their organizations, those who have served, and those who have been injured in duty.
A ceremony will started at 12.30 p.m. at the defense forces' cemetery in Tallinn, including a blessing of memorials and graves by the army's chaplain.
The day's events, naturally scaled-back due to the coronavirus emergency situation, are to be rounded off with the "Anname Au!" broadcast just after 10 p.m. on ETV.
The accompanying, now familiar "Anname Au!" blue flower campaign has run since 2014 as an additional way to show support and gratitude; this year's donations will be coronavirus-focused in supporting Kuressaare Hospital on Saaremaa, the most affected area by the pandemic, as well as sporting, disabled and mental health charities, organizations and initiatives.
The "Skywheel of Tallinn", a ferris wheel atop a major Tallinn shopping mall, has also been decked out in the national blue, black and white colors.
EDF newsletter Sõdurileht is also requesting people post photos of their own flag-raising efforts, in the absence of any mass events.
The EDF has also put together a CD recording by its conscripts' band, "Sõduri Hing", which can be purchased via a €10 (minimum) donation to the veterans' organziation, MTÜ Eesti Kaitseväe Veteranid. The CD can be picked up from the EDF's support services office on Lõkke 4 in Tallinn once emergency situation restrictions have been lifted, or by post by emailing email@example.com.
There are over 3,000 registered EDF and Defense League veterans (meaning post-restoration of Estonian independence veterans-ed.), who have been involved in operations globally in the former Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Mali, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Central African Republic and several other theaters.
President: Extraordinary situation but we can still show support
President Kersti Kaljulaid also hoisted the national flag Thursday morning.
"The current coronavirus outbreak and related restrictions have changed many lovely and important things which had become annual expected events in previous years. Veterans' Day and related events and campaigns are one of these - we can't hold a blue flower campaign, veterans' rock or a Carolin Illenzeer Foundation charity dinner in the usual way," the president wrote on her social media page Thursday.
"However, today we can all thank veterans and recognize them by hoisting national flags. This is how we remember more than 3,000 men and women who have ensured Estonia's security in complex foreign missions for a quarter of a century."
"In this way, we also remember those who, while standing for the Estonian state, have given their lives or who have been wounded in a way that will remain with them forever. Happy Veterans Day! And as requested by Sõdurileht: post pictures of hoisting the flag on their page as well."
Editor: Andrew Whyte