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Memorial Day ceremony modified

Lennon: ‘I think it’s important to keep it going’

-Messenger file photo
Members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1856 fire a rifle salute outside St. Edmond High School to conclude the Memorial Day observance in May 2019.

Every May, Americans spend a weekend remembering lost loved ones. Families visit cemeteries and lay flowers, wreaths and mementoes at the graves of their ancestors. Marching bands parade down Main Streets performing patriotic melodies. Communities hold Memorial Day ceremonies to honor fallen military service members and veterans.

This year, however, will be different.

While many Iowans will still pay visits to cemeteries to remember those they’ve lost, the parades and observance ceremonies have been canceled or amended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Retired U.S. Army Col. Rich Lennon, a Webster County Veterans Affairs commissioner and member of the Fort Dodge Veterans Council, said a small event is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday in place of the larger public ceremony that’s typically held on Memorial Day.

The event will be in the VFW parking lot, 518 S. 29th St. with the VFW rifle guard and honor guard.

-Messenger file photo
Army veteran Albert Habhab, left, and Air Force veteran Ray E. Crouse stand during the 2019 Memorial Day observance in the auditorium at St. Edmond High School. Habhab, who was mayor of Fort Dodge and later chief judge of the Iowa Court of Appeals, served in the 87th Infantry Division during World War II. Crouse was an Air Force pilot from 1950 to 1954.

The American flag will be raised and then lowered to half-staff. The seven-member rifle guard will fire three volleys before a bugler plays taps, like what the rifle guard and honor guard would do at a military or veteran funeral.

“That’s usually what we’d normally do at all these other ceremonies, but we wanted to do something even if we weren’t having a larger ceremony,” Lennon said. “And we know a lot of the at-risk people are the ones that would come out to Badger Lake.”

Lennon said the local American Legion and Marine Corps League are also invited to send representatives to the small event, so long as social distancing can be maintained.

“It’s a tradition that I don’t think we want to see it end,” he said. “I think with doing precautions, it’s just something we owe the veterans and this is something that is done every year to honor the veterans that have passed away.”

Later on Monday afternoon, Lennon said, the honor guard and rifle guard will do the same thing for a small family memorial service at Veterans Memorial Park in honor of veteran Richard Merrill, who died in April.

-Messenger file photo
Roger Simonson leads the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1856 Honor Guard into the St. Edmond High School auditorium for the Memorial Day observance.

Typically, at the Fort Dodge Memorial Day ceremony every year, names of Webster County veterans who had died in the past year are read along with a drumroll before taps plays. This year, Webster County Veterans Affairs Director Dan Lewandowski will do a recording of all the names, which will be played on air at local radio stations over the weekend.

Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, Lennon said he felt it was important to have some sort of Memorial Day service this year to honor the service and sacrifice of military men and women and veterans.

“I think it’s important to keep it going, even if it’s on a modified scale,” he said.

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