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Listening to, observing Memorial Day

By Staff | May 29, 2020

Bryce Berginski/PCT Clarence Larson American Legion Post No. 23 Color Guard and Rifle Squad members give a gun salute during the Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony Monday at the Memorial Hall in Rugby.

COVID-19 changed plans for Memorial Day observances in the U.S., including in Rugby.

The Clarence Larson American Legion Post No. 23’s Memorial Day service was held exclusively via broadcast on AM 1450 KZZJ Monday morning, with a socially-distanced wreath-laying, gun salute, Taps, and bell tolling held afterward at the Memorial Hall.

“I’ve been following on the internet as closely as I could about Gov. (Doug) Burgum’s guidelines, and it said large gatherings like concerts or other type events where you’re going to have a large group of people, and I talked to Sam Wentz and she kind of agreed it’s going to be too hard to try to get the six-foot spacing in the auditorium as well as downstairs at the meal – you’re elbow-to-elbow,” said Legion Post Commander John Gustafson. “So I said, I thought, ‘What can we do?’ And so I came up with the broadcast. I talked to Lila at the radio station and she said yeah we can do it all on the radio, and then with this (wreath-laying ceremony) here I knew that we’re going to be outside, we’re going to have the ability to space people out a little bit, so that’s what led to going to the recording and then the outside part of it.”

In the broadcasted address, Gustafson said Memorial Day had precedents in the U.S. in the form of Decoration Day. Prior to World War I, these spring tributes honored Civil War dead, however in the 20th century observances expanded to include all who died while in service. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which set Memorial Day at the last Monday in May.

Gustafson explained the U.S. has incurred over 1.1 million in-service deaths, and the number of deaths incurred from World War II, as an example, were more than the population of New Orleans.

“These numbers should truly humble us,” said Gustafson.

Gustafson said Memorial Day is a chance to “reconnect” with those who made “our way of life” possible.

Two moments of silence were held during the service: One for prisoners of war, missing in action and fallen service members, and one for persons who died due to COVID-19.

Musical selections played during the broadcasted service were “If You’re Reading This” by Tim McGraw; “More Than a Name on the Wall” by the Statler Brothers; “Angel Flight” by Radney Foster; and “God Bless the U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood.

Post Chaplain Josh Siegler gave the invocation and benediction.

Recitations of the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance were given.

A bell-tolling for COVID-19 dead was held immediately following the wreath-laying ceremony.

The broadcast was recorded at Rugby Broadcasters’ studios, and persons interested in getting a copy of the recording can contact them at 776-5254.

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