Veterans organizations across northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota will honor deceased military members on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, though in some cases ceremonies will be private due to concerns associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
The organizations have made the changes because the governors of North Dakota and Minnesota, in an effort to stem the spread of the virus, have recommended people don’t gather in large groups.
In Grand Forks, for example, at 9 a.m Monday, May 25, American Legion Post 6 will hold a private ceremony at Memorial Park North Cemetery, which will be attended by fewer than 10 members.
“We want it to be a very small ceremony,” said Dennis Almer, Grand Forks American Legion Post 6 spokesman.
The Herald plans to provide live coverage of the event on its website, www.gfherald.com. The event will include an invocation by Paul Robinette, Post 6 chaplain, some appropriate readings and the presentation of wreaths in memory of the Grand Army of the Republic, Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Grenada/Lebanon/Panama, Persian Gulf War, Iraq Conflict, Afghanistan, and “all who perished on land, sea or air.”
Grand Forks Mayor Michael Brown, a former ICBM missile launch control officer at Grand Forks Air Force Base, will be the guest speaker.
At 11 a.m., on Memorial Day, the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 2 and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in Grand Forks will co-host a 21-gun salute at Memorial Park South Cemetery, said Richard Krajewski, a member of the DAV Honor Guard. Seven riflemen, three flag holders and a bugler will take part in the salute.
Across the river in East Grand Forks, American Legion Post 157 and VFW Post 3817 will do a rifle salute and play Taps at Resurrection Cemetery late Monday morning, said Mike Coleman, VFW commander. Before that, the Honor Guard will travel to six rural cemeteries near East Grand Forks and do the same.
In Park River, N.D., American Legion Post 147 will do a 21-gun salute at about 11 a.m. on Memorial Day. But Post 147 won’t have a program, as it typically does, said Vern Houser, post commander.
“Normally, we have a program, speaker, songs,” he said. “It will be a little different.”
American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford is encouraging the public to light candles at dusk on Memorial Day and place them on their front porches to honor fallen U.S. military heroes.
The candles can be different colors, symbolizing different remembrances, Oxford said. For example, red candles can represent veterans who died while serving their country, while white can be a reminder of prisoners of war and veterans who are missing in action and have not yet returned home, he said.
“As we continue to follow stay-at-home guidance during the coronavirus pandemic, we must not fail to remember the men and women who fought for our freedoms,” Oxford said in a news release.
Oxford also suggested that families make signs expressing gratitude for military sacrifice. He hopes people will photograph friends and family holding up the signs and then share the images on social media.
“We can remind everyone by showing our candles and sharing our messages that, no matter the circumstances, we will never forget those who are no longer among us,” he said.