LeRoy Wegenast said if nothing else the coronavirus pandemic could lend itself to a more reflective Memorial Day weekend for those in the Buffalo City.
"Perhaps a quote from St. John Paul II best summarizes Memorial Day 2020," said Wegenast, president of the All Vets Club via email. "'Remember the past with gratitude (for those who have sacrificed). Live the present with enthusiasm (kindness and patience). Look forward to the future with confidence (and prayers for healing in our country and around the world).'"
Due to social distancing guidelines, there will not be a morning Memorial Day ceremony at the Knights of Columbus Hall as in past years. A short ceremony will occur at 9 a.m. at the Nickeus Park bridge. A wreath will be lowered into the James River to honor those military members lost at sea. A member from the Jamestown Drum and Bugle Corps will be performing one song at the ceremony.
"This year the only thing we are going to be doing is playing taps," said Theresa Haag, a member of the Drum and Bugle Corps. "Usually they have a program at the Knights of Columbus Hall and we do three or four songs ... but because of COVID-19 and nobody has been practicing or meeting or anything all we are doing this year is the taps."
After the ceremonial lowering of the wreath and playing of the famous military ballad, veterans organizations will proceed to cemeteries around the city and Fort Seward for flag raising and lowering to half-staff. The Drum and Bugle Corps will not be performing at the six local cemeteries or at Fort Seward.
Though plans have been adjusted as a result of the coronavirus, Haag said she thinks it could be for the better.
"With everybody being at home all of the time and not being able to run around and do stuff I think it makes everybody think more about what Memorial Day is really all about," Haag said. "I think with everybody being 'North Dakota Strong' and 'United States Strong' it's probably going to bring a few more people out who never came out before."
After the local veteran groups visit Fort Seward and cemeteries, honoring those who have died for their country, those in the community are invited to the All Vets Club for a light luncheon, with a freewill offering, and fellowship. The club has taken measures to ensure distancing guidelines are observed in seating and encourages wearing a mask when possible.
The club opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 2 p.m. The luncheon will begin at 11:30 a.m.
Other area communities have adjusted their Memorial Day schedules as well. In Pingree, community members who would like to make observance should meet at the flagpole at the Pingree Cemetery at 10:30 a.m. A prayer will be spoken and taps will be played. After these observances, the graves of veterans will then be decorated. No dinner or program is planned this year.
In Kensal, there will be no Memorial Day service or noon meal at St. John's Catholic Church. The John Florhaug Post 103 American Legion and the Sons of the American Legion Squadron 103 will be saluting those who have served at the Kensal and Catholic cemeteries beginning at 10:30 a.m. No program has been planned in Sanborn by the Eckelson-Sanborn American Legion Auxiliary.
Holiday plans may have changed for local communities but Wegenast said priorities have not shifted.
"The pandemic cannot diminish the importance of honoring and remembrance of the sacrifice of our military and especially our Gold Star families," Wegenast said. "The spirit of patriotism in our community is evident throughout the year, but especially on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. The mission of the All Vets Club has been to help fulfill Jamestown's Community Military Covenant, promote community patriotism and to provide meeting and social facilities for our veterans and their families."