Kathie Lee Gifford Says Coronavirus Pandemic Shows Americans 'How Precious Our Freedoms Are'
The former Today show co-anchor will virtually host Ancestry’s Parade of Heroes for Memorial Day on Facebook
She might be celebrating from home, but Kathie Lee Gifford will still have a Memorial Day filled with pomp and circumstance. The former Today co-anchor, 66, will virtually host Ancestry’s Parade of Heroes Monday on Facebook.
“This year, of course, we're trying to make it possible for everyone to celebrate at home. I think it will be a great blessing for people,” Gifford tells PEOPLE of the parade put on by Ancestry, the leader in family history. “With so much negative news, so much to be concerned about, it'll be 45 minutes or so respite from that.”
Memorial Day holds a special meaning in Gifford’s heart because of her family ties to the military.
“My father has passed on now, but he was a veteran of World War II,” she says. “He lied about his age when he was 17 the day after Pearl Harbor, like so many young American men did to serve their country. He served for 20 years in the Navy. His stepfather and his oldest brother were killed in combat in Europe, and his other brother came home wounded. He's the only one from the family of the men who came home unscathed by anything physically, but no one comes back from war unscathed emotionally.”
The TV personality believes that staying home these last few months due to the coronavirus pandemic demonstrated to Americans “just how special and how precious our freedoms are.”
“We shouldn't take them for granted,” she continues. “So many people look forward to Memorial Day parades. They look forward to family picnics and celebrations. They look forward to remembering with great honor, the people that they have personally known and lost during times of war. It's just an important holiday. It's a solemn one. It's bitter because of the loss of human life and precious people to us. But it's also sweet, because freedom is. And we should never forget those who've given the ultimate sacrifice and are still willing to give it today.”
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The Parade of Heroes will include performances by Tori Kelly, Acapop! Kids and Lincoln Way Marching Band, appearances from LL Cool J, Mario Lopez and Rob Lowe, and interviews with veterans of all ages.
Growing up in Maryland, Gifford and her family commemorated the holiday by attending a parade and enjoying a crab feast. But, “I've always had an American flag flying every single day at my home,” she says. “It's not like I put up the American flag just on Memorial Day or anything like that. It flies proudly every day.”
Gifford made Tennessee her home after leaving the Today show last year, and she says “my soul is thriving here” now. “I did it for my own emotional health and happiness,” she adds of making the move. “We live in a country where we're constitutionally allowed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It doesn't guarantee us happiness, but it guarantees us the right to pursue it.”
She hopes that the country comes out on the other side of the health crisis it's been experiencing for over two months now. “We're all facing a different adversary right now with this virus, but we're going to come through this,” Gifford assures. “We're America, we're American and we are a very sturdy bunch.”
Ancestry’s Parade of Heroes will stream Monday at 11 a.m. ET on Ancestry’s Facebook Page via Watch Party. Following the program, Ancestry invites viewers to participate by sharing a picture or video on Instagram to commemorate who they are remembering this Memorial Day, using the hashtag #RememberAtHome.
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