American Legion Family adapts, overcomes for Memorial Day

For years Jenkins-Vaughan Post 97 in Cardington, Ohio, has coordinated the village of around 1,700 residents’ Memorial Day parade. Considering the 2019 edition of the parade featured 56 units, this year’s cancellation due to the coronavirus was going to be noticed by the community.

But thanks to Post 97, village officials and the civic group Friends of Cardington, the community will have a Memorial Day ceremony, whether they choose to leave their homes to watch it or stay at home with their smart phone, tablet or laptop.

This year’s program will consist of a small procession carrying the colors of the nation through the village and a ceremony at the Civil War Monument in Glendale Cemetery – all streamed online through Post 97’s Facebook page and other online sources.

“We just felt it was very important for us to honor the dead at Memorial Day like we always do,” said American Legion Past National Vice Commander James Morris, a member and past commander of Post 97. “We wanted to do a little more, something different. Our parade is very big. We wanted to keep something going.”

Members of Post 97’s American Legion Family will carry the colors from American Legion Park through the village and will take part in a POW/MIA ceremony and 21-gun salute at the cemetery. Those along the procession route are encouraged to watch from the porches, windows or yards while observing proper social distancing. And buglers from the Cardington-Lincoln High School Band will be stationed throughout the village to play taps.

There will be no seating for the program at the cemetery, and those who attend to watch are urged to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Morris said it was important to offer a virtual option for those not wanting to leave their homes. “It was important to us because (community members) support us a lot,” he said. “They support The American Legion and the community. We just wanted to let them know we were thinking about them. If they didn’t want to come out, that’s OK.”

In the weeks leading up to Memorial Day, Post 97 used its Facebook page to urge members of the community to get involved with the day of remembrance. Those included placing a wreath or flowers at a local veteran’s gravesite; or displaying signs, banners, or other visual displays for their front porch, yard, or window.

“We felt it was important that we do this,” Sons of The American Legion Squadron Commander Wes Goodman said. “When you look back over the course of our nation’s history, we’ve faced tons of adversity in the past. We’ve celebrated Memorial Day in the middle of wars. We celebrated Memorial Day during a pandemic 100 years ago. We just felt strongly … that it was important to find a way to meaningfully honor Memorial Day and to involve our community.”

Memorial Day With a YouTube Twist. Members of American Legion Post 1009 in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., knew that their community’s annual Memorial Day parade – coordinated each year by either the post or Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8328 – was going to be canceled because of the coronavirus. But letting Memorial Day come and go without any kind of observance wasn’t in the cards for the post.

That’s why Post 1009 recorded a video of a virtual tour of various veterans and military memorials and monuments in the Yorktown area. The post has made the video available on YouTube to learn about the sacrifices made by those honored on those memorials and monuments.

The post originally considered putting together a written tour of the memorials, complete with Legionnaires stationed at each stop, but realized that another plan was needed in the interest of social distancing. That’s where the idea of a video tour came about.

“The thought was to make it like you were driving,” Post 1009 Adjutant Patrick McDonough said. “It’s kind of like you went along the (route).”

The nearly 15-minute video takes viewers on a tour of local monuments dating back to the Revolutionary War. It also includes visits to memorial parks, bridges and a highway, as well as the playing of taps and the singing of the national anthem. A written tour of the video is being placed on Facebook so those who want to can take the tour in person.

“(The Memorial Day parade) isn’t for us. It’s for those that didn’t come back,” McDonough said. “The hope is that (the video) is passed on and passed on (before Memorial Day).”

A similar effort happened at Garden Oaks American Legion Post 560 in Texas, where Memorial Day typically consists of the post’s memorial service and barbecue. Members of the post created an online tribute to the sacrifices of the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces.

The five-minute speech is available online here.

The following are just a few examples of how American Legion Family members have come up with alternative ways to observe Memorial Day.

California

• Members of American Legion Post 174 in Willits are placing flags at local cemeteries in place of the annual Memorial Day ceremony.

• In Santa Ynez Valley, American Legion Post 160 and VFW Post 7139 and American Legion Post 160 are placing U.S. flags on all veteran graves located at the Mission, Chalk Hill, Oak Hill and Saint Mark’s cemeteries.

Connecticut

American Legion Post 176 gathered up old flags and replaced them with around 700 new ones in six town cemeteries in Monroe.

Georgia

• The American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90 in Statesboro is conducting its annual Memorial Day ceremony on the Emma Kelly Theater stage inside the Averitt Center, but this year it will happen without a live audience. But a video of the ceremony, which will include several Post 90 members, will be aired on several online outlets on Memorial Day.

• Members of Post 9’s American Legion Family in Brunswick wouldn’t let the cancellation of the local Memorial Day ceremony stop them from honoring veterans buried in the area. They placed hundreds of flags on the gravesites of every veteran buried in three different local cemeteries. “We’re standing on their shoulders and we’re remembering them,” Post 9 Legionnaire John Orr told The Brunswick News.

Illinois

American Legion Post 488 in Riverside and Riverside TV are putting together a highlights video of previous Memorial Day ceremonies to air on local cable channels on May 25. Included in the video will be a segment honoring Riverside resident Dr. Joseph E. Troiani as an honored veteran.

Post 488 also is hosting a free Zoom program for the public on May 25 that will feature Abraham Lincoln interpreter George Buss performing Lincoln’s second inaugural address, delivered in 1865 during the closing days of the Civil War.

Maryland

• A handful of American Legion Baseball players joined up with members of Francis Scott Key Post 11 in Frederick to place thousands of flags on the graves of veterans buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery. Typically the post also gets assistance placing the flags from the Boy Scouts and local Junior ROTC participants but couldn’t this year because of the coronavirus shutting down those programs. It also was the first year placing the flags without former Post 11 Commander Bryan Hissey, who passed away earlier this year. “We’re going to try to keep his project going and continue doing what we’re doing,” Frederick County Commander and Post 11 Legionnaire Keith Clevenger told The Frederick News-Post.

• American Legion Post 239 in Cascade is placing more than 400 flags on veterans’ graves this weekend.

Massachusetts

In Newton, members of Sons of The American Legion Squadron 440 continued a yearly tradition of placing American flags and signs thanking veterans across highway bridges and around the city. The squadrons placed around 230 flags across 23 bridges in three different communities.

Members of American Legion Post 440 are joining up with other local civic organizations and for a “Rolling Memorial” drive throughout the surrounding communities. The ride will include several floats and hit a majority of the streets in the area.

Michigan

• SSG Michael A. Dickinson, II Post 257 in Battle Creek and students from Harper Creek High School joined up to place flags on veterans’ graves at Floral Lawn Memorial Cemetery. All participants followed social distancing guidelines. They placed flags on the graves of veterans while social distancing. “It’s hard enough getting teenagers out of bed on Saturdays to do some work,” Post 257 Commander Brian Mohlman told WWMT. “This is very, very rewarding work on their part. They’re learning something. They’re learning how and why we honor veterans.”

• In Big Rapids, Harry K. Kunzie Post 98 is inviting the community to a socially distanced Memorial Day ceremony at Holland Park. “Memorial Day is for reflection and to honor those who have fallen in the line of duty,” Post 98 Commander Bill Yontz told The Pioneer. “The very freedoms of our country have been paid for by the blood of these men and women.”

• In Sault, Post 3 placed 1,200 flags on the graves of veterans buried in the area.

Minnesota

In Litchfield, Minnesota, Nelsan/Horton Post-104 will be hosting a pre-recorded Memorial Day Program that will be heard on local radio station KLFD. The program will include a fife and bugle opening and patriotic music, various speakers, a reading of the Gettysburg Address, a 21-gun salute and taps, and the singing of “God Bless America.” is sung, and then a Thank You to all who took the time to listen. Each segment was recorded individually for the sake of social distancing.

Nebraska

Observing social distancing, American Legion Post 5 in Scottsbluff will join with volunteers to place flags on the graves of veterans in Fairview and Sunset cemeteries.

New Jersey

American Legion Post 184 in Wildwood is teaming up with the local police and fire department to stage a drive-by parade on May 24. First responders will drive through town and also pass by the homes of residents who have signed up to participate in the event. Other Memorial Day activities include a contest for residents to decorate their homes with a patriotic scene, and coloring and activity pages for local youth. Post 184 created the pages to help parents educate their children about Memorial Day. Each student that completes and submits one of the pages will receive a handwritten note from one of Post 184’s members and an American flag

“The true meaning of Memorial Day is commonly forgotten,” Post 184 Commander Harry Weimar said. “We hope these learning opportunities and the parade experience will make everyone remember ‘freedom isn’t free,’ especially the next generation.”

A Memorial Day ceremony will take place with no audience, but the ceremony will be streamed live through Post 184’s Facebook page and on Wildwood365.blogspot.com.

New York

• American Legion Post 323 is teaming up with the Veterans of Foreign Wars to place 1,444 U.S. flags on the graves of local veterans.

• No parade will take place in Whitehall, but American Legion Post 83 will still place flags on veterans’ graves and provide a scaled-down ceremony.

• In Cazenovia, American Legion Post 88 will live stream its Memorial Day ceremony, which includes the annual reading of the names of local veterans who lost their lives in the past year. The link for the live stream will be shared prior to Memorial Day on the Village of Cazenovia website, the CazCOVIDResponse website, and numerous local social media venues.

North Carolina

• American Legion Post 86 and the Town of Cornelius are teaming up to pre-record a Memorial Day ceremony that will be posted on the town’s Department Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture Facebook page. Post 86 Commander Gene McKinney will serve as master of ceremonies.

• In Huntersville, American Legion Post 321 and the Town of Huntersville will host a virtual observance on Memorial Day.

Ohio

• American Legion Post 637 in Millersport came up with an alternative to the annual Memorial Day parade. The post is conducting a community car parade at the Millersport Cemetery. The post also is marking the approximately 200 veteran graves in the cemetery with a white cross and U.S. flag.

• American Legion Post 28 in Perrysburg led a community effort that placed nearly 2,000 flags on veterans’ graves in Fort Meigs Union Cemetery. “We wanted to make sure that people still understood that the service and the sacrifice of those who have fallen in defense of this nation is not forgotten, despite whatever else is going on right now,” Post 28 Commander Haraz Ghanbari told the Toledo Blade. “I’m just very grateful and humbled by all the folks that came out on a Saturday morning to join American Legion Post 28 in honoring our brothers and sisters, our comrades in arms.”

• In Parma, American Legion Post 572 will continue its tradition of conducting its Memorial Service that will include the playing of taps, a 21-gun salute and a flag-raising. “We’re asking anyone who wants to witness the little ceremony to do so from the parking lot while staying in their vehicles,” American Legion Post 572 Post Commander Tony Kessler told Cleveland.com. “With everything that’s going on, we didn’t want to see Memorial Day get swept under the carpet. To us veterans, this is probably as important (a) day as any that we have all year. We certainly want to make sure we show our respect.”

• In Parma Heights, Presbyterian Church’s 153rd annual Memorial Day service will be pre-recorded and will include Rev. Mark Juengel, Parma Heights Mayor Michael Byrne, American Legion Post 703 Vice Commander Bill Schiffer, a soloist and an organist. The video will be available on the church website and the city’s website.

• Members of American Legion Post 109 in Lisbon placed 600 flags on veterans’ graves at the Lisbon Cemetery in advance of Memorial Day.

Oklahoma

In Wagoner, American Legion Post 153 will provide an abbreviated ceremony in front of the Wagoner County Courthouse that will include American Legion Family members as guest speakers. A wreath-laying ceremony and the playing of taps will take place while social distancing is observed.

“The abbreviated service on Memorial Day will limit public exposure to one another, but still show we do care about those who have passed before us,” Post 153 Adjutant and Finance Officer Jim Marsh told the Tulsa World. “There is a feeling among all of us that our veterans should be honored in some way each year.”

Oregon

Because of social distancing rules, the 100th annual Corvallis Memorial Day parade will take on a different look this year. Rather than being fill with floats, horseback riders and other normal flag participants, this year’s version will feature only American Legion Post 91 Honor Guard and veterans marching down the street – very similar to the first parade in 1920.

“It was never our parade,” Past Post 91 Commander and former Parade Committee Chairman Dave Mason told the Bitterroot Star. “It’s always been about celebrating our veterans.”

Pennsylvania

• Warren Royer American Legion Post 234 in Souderton is conducting a virtual ceremony that will include around a dozen people, consisting of post board members and a color guard, observing social distancing, in Post 234’s yard on Main Street. The ceremony will include the reading of the names of those who lost their lives in war and of post members who died in the past year. “It’s up to everybody to honor the people that made the ultimate sacrifice,” Post 234 Commander Audrey Halteman told the Montgomery News. “They can do that at their own house by putting their flag out and taking a moment to think about those people.”

• In Hawley, members of American Legion Post 311 placed flags on the gravesites of hundreds of veterans at the Queens of Peace Cemetery and the Green Gates Cemetery. All of the volunteers wore masks. “I used to do this as a Boy Scout and I loved it, so when I joined the American Legion, no hesitation,” Post 311 Vice Commander Gus Lind told WNEP. “It reminds me of all the guys who fought and died for our country.”

• In Elwood City, members of Post 157 are placing 2,000 flags on veterans’ graves at three area cemeteries.

Washington

In Oak Harbor, American Legion Post 129 is cohosting a Memorial Day event that will be recorded and then shared on YouTube, Facebook and possibly a local TV station. The event will feature speakers that include members of Post 129.

West Virginia

In Wheeling, American Legion Post 1 will conduct a Memorial Day, though it won’t be open to the public. Legionnaires will be wearing masks and adhering to social distancing.

“This day is a day that cannot be forgotten,” Post 1 Legionnaire Mike Doyle told WWLP. “And, it would have been (remiss) for us to not attempt to do something.”

Wisconsin

• In Seymour, Krause-Kraft-Mueller American Legion Post 106 has been involved in the annual Memorial Day program and parade. This year, American Legion Past National Vice Commander and current Seymour Veterans’ Memorial & Park Committee Chairman Russ Hanseter came up with an alternate plan. A dual Post 106-Auxiliary Unit 106 member prepared a Memorial Day message that will appear in the Times-Press along with an article Hanseter has prepared about Post 106’s involvement with Memorial Day in the past 99 years. The post’s American Legion Family also is placing flags on the graves of veterans in local cemeteries.

• In Onalaska, the annual Memorial Day ceremony conducted by American Legion Post 336 will take place at the Onalaska Cemetery’s Veteran Memorial with no chairs for spectators, though those wishing to watch it can do so from afar.

• In Genoa City, American Legion Sponholtz-Deignan Post 183 will not have its traditional observation at Brookwood Elementary School, which is closed under an order from the governor. But the post is asking members of the community wishing to see the post’s Memorial Day observation park their cars facing Nippersink Creek near Fellows Bar and Grill. Speakers will be set up so everyone can hear the Memorial Day observation.

• In Oconto Falls, American Legion Post 302 will have 10 of its members wearing masks and standing six feet apart in front of the Oconto Falls Veterans Monument. The post is encouraging community members to drive by the monument at 11 a.m. on Memorial Day, where they will be saluted by Post 302’s members.

• In Suring, American Legion Post 283 plans to conduct Memorial Day programs consisting of the reading of names of those buried there who died during service, a firing detail, a prayer and the playing of taps at the seven cemeteries it normally visits. Members will practice social distancing.

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