Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, local veteran organizations are still honoring those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their county with Memorial Day services.
Janet Bemis, president of the American Legion Auxiliary John Saylor Unit #146, noted that Rising City’s ceremony will be taking place as usual at 11 a.m. at Circle Mound Cemetery. To follow social distancing measures, though, visitors are asked to stay in their vehicles and listen to the services which will be broadcasted on 93.9 FM.
In case of inclement weather, the program will be held outside community hall with a live radio broadcast. Visitors should park on Main Street and remain in their vehicles.
Following tradition, visitors can still expect an invocation, reading of the Gettysburg Address and other patriotic readings, the Pledge of Allegiance, an honor roll of flags, placing of the memorial wreath, honor guard salute, TAPS, The National Anthem and benediction.
The other change visitors can expect is there will be no guest speaker for this year’s services.
According to Bemis, members of the Auxiliary meet the week before Memorial Day to arrange the sprays and poppies for the graves of over 250 people who had served in the military. The Avenue of Flags is established with smaller flags being placed at graves.
Bemis added that the National Women's Auxiliary will be observing its centennial this year. Although Legion Post #146 disbanded in 1959, the Auxiliary has carried on ever since.
Chartered on Oct. 29, 1920, Unit #146 was named after John Saylor, who died in battle in 1918. Throughout the years, the Auxiliary has grown and supported community projects such as Girls State, County Government Day and Little Red Schoolhouse.
Two women veterans who were Rising City natives were honored on Memorial Day in 1988 – Mildred Thomas, a major in the Air Force, and Estella Mortensen, a 2nd lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps. The Auxiliary further showed their support for Thomas and Mortensen in 1993 with a donation to the Women in Military Service Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.
Currently, Unit #146 plans Memorial Day services, continues sponsoring a Girls State participant and maintains the avenue of flags which are placed at the cemetery on Memorial Day and in the city park on Flag Day, the Fourth of July and Veterans Day. Although the Auxiliary hasn’t held Veterans Day services since 2000, members still honor those who have served with an event at a local coffee shop.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus crisis, Bemis expressed the importance of continuing to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their county.
“Because of what they went through, we have the freedom to honor them,” Bemis said. “I just can’t imagine not doing something to honor them.”
Memorial Day services will be held at David City as well.
Larry Sabata, commander of VFW Post 5814 in David City and a Vietnam veteran, noted that David City’s services will be the same as in previous years but without a speaker.
Normally, services would begin at the Butler County Courthouse with the Avenue of Flags, the advancement of colors, Pledge of Allegiance, opening prayer and other Memorial Day traditions.
Sabata said there will be an Avenue of Flags at the town’s square but no gathering at the courthouse.
“There won’t be (any) prayers or anything like that,” he noted.
The Honor Guard will still perform the salute to the dead ceremony at area cemeteries at the following places and times: St. Mary's Cemetery, 9 a.m.; David City Cemetery, 9:30 a.m.; Garrison Cemetery, 10 a.m.; Faith East Lutheran Cemetery, 10:15 a.m.; Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery, 10:30 a.m.; Rising Sun Cemetery, 11 a.m.; Circle Mound Cemetery, Rising City, 11:30 a.m.; Fairview Cemetery, Rising City, 11:45 a.m.; Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Rising City, 1 p.m.; St. Francis Center Parish Cemetery, 1:30 p.m.; and Assumption Apple Cemetery, 2 p.m.
“It’s important to honor our fallen comrades,” Sabata said. “If it wouldn’t be for them, I doubt I’d be talking to you now.”
Hannah Schrodt is the news editor of The Banner-Press. Reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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