GREENWOOD – On Memorial Day, families usually gather at cemeteries or indoor ceremonies to honor their loved ones who gave the ultimate sacrifice during war time. In many communities, local veterans organizations host services that pay quiet tribute to the fallen.
But this year, there will be no such services. With social gatherings limited to 10 or fewer people and social distancing guidelines in place, Memorial Day observances in the area have been cancelled.
“We are not going to have anything at the cemetery,” said Gary Krings, commander of American Legion Post 173 in Greenwood.
The Greenwood service is usually held at Greenwood Memorial Cemetery. The ceremony includes many parts of a traditional Memorial Day service, including the Pledge of Allegiance, a proclamation, reading of the poem “In Flanders Fields,” playing of the National Anthem, placing of a wreath, a moment of silence and a gun salute.
Krings said last year’s service was canceled at the last minute because of a storm. But in general, the Legion has held a service there every year for decades.
In Ceresco, the service is typically held at the Ceresco Legion Memorial Hall. Ceresco American Legion Post 244 recently announced that there would be no Memorial Day service.
“In our post history, I do not believe that Ceresco Post No. 244 has ever not held a Memorial Day service, and this year will certainly be unprecedented,” wrote Commander Lonnie Rech in the May newsletter.
However, flags and crosses will be displayed at Memorial Hall for the fallen members of the post for one week, from May 21 to 28, Rech said.
Waverly’s ceremony at Rosehill Cemetery is also cancelled, along with the observation by Valparaiso American Legion Post 371 at the post home and the Raymond Women’s Club service at Oak Creek Cemetery.
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs is asking groups not to place flags on graves of veterans for Memorial Day this year as well.
“This year, by necessity, will be different from past Memorial Day observances,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a news release. “While the department can’t hold large public ceremonies, VA will still honor Veterans and service members with the solemn dignity and respect they have earned through their service and sacrifice.”
The Nebraska American Legion is hosting a virtual Memorial Day observance on May 25, calling it the state’s “largest Memorial Day celebration with the fewest people present in the room.”
The twelve-hour live stream will begin at 8 a.m. With Gold Star Mother Monica Alexander lighting that will be extinguished at 8 p.m. by her husband, Gold Star Father Mel Alexander. Their son, Army Cpl. Matthew Alexander of Gretna, was killed May 6, 2007 in Iraq by an improvised explosive device (IED). Members of the state’s veteran service organizations will act as honor guard sentinels for the flame.
Two national memorial exhibits will be on display during the Memorial Day weekend in Omaha and Lincoln. The Remembering Our Fallen national memorial will be in Lincoln on the south side of Pinnacle Bank Arena in the Haymarket and in Elkhorn at Prospect Hill Cemetery on West Maple Road from May 22 to May 25. The Flights of Honor Exhibit will be in Omaha at VFW Post 2503, 8904 Military Ave.
The Remembering Our Fallen is a traveling photographic war memorial that honors the service members who died in the War on Terror (from 9/11 to present). The memorial was originally scheduled to be in Washington, D.C. and Arizona for Memorial Day, according to organizer Bill Williams of Patriotic Productions. The two identical exhibits will have tribute towers placed 10 feet apart to account for social distancing guidelines and can be seen from a vehicle.
The Flights of Honor exhibit includes hundreds of photos from Honor Flights that carried Nebraska veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and other foreign wars to Washington, D.C. They were organized by Bill and Evonne Williams.
To honor the Memorial Day holiday, The News has published a page that includes a list of local veterans organizations and their officers along with the National American Legion Memorial Day speech. It can be found on Page 6.