Memorial Day celebrations to be scaled back

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NORTHERN HILLS — Memorial Day ceremonies will be quieter this year, but veterans from throughout the Northern Hills will still be sure to honor our fallen service members in a special way.

The Spearfish Veterans Honor Guard will perform military honors at four different cemeteries on Monday. At 7 a.m., the honor guard will be at the Beulah Cemetery for a brief ceremony. Afterward, they will travel to the Little Dane Church for a ceremony at 8 a.m., and they will do a ceremony in St. Onge at 8:30 a.m. Memorials will conclude at 9:30 a.m. in Rose Hill Cemetery in Spearfish. Eric Kinslow, commander of the Spearfish VFW said the Spearfish Veterans Honor Guard consists of VFW and American Legion members, and the American Legion coordinates the ceremony. This year it will consist of prayer, a three-volley salute, and Taps. There will not be a speaker this year, and members of the public who wish to attend are asked to comply with social distancing recommendations or stay in their vehicles.

In Belle Fourche, the VFW plans to host a scaled back ceremony at 9 a.m. at Pine Slope Cemetery. This year’s ceremony will not include a guest speaker, but will have Belle Fourche Mayor Gloria Lamphere to give a welcome. The Center of the Nation Brass will perform God Bless America, as well as an anthem for each branch of military service, and soldiers in the National Guard will perform a three-volley salute.

While traditionally the Belle Fourche VFW has joined with the local Boy Scouts troop to do an avenue of 120 flags, Commander Monte Talkington said that part of the ceremony has been taken out. Additionally local organizations and groups will not lay wreaths this year as part of the event.

In Deadwood, Post No. 5969 will host a small ceremony at 9 a.m. Monday, at its headquarters at 10 Pine St. While Post Commander John Datka said the public is invited, he encouraged everyone to follow social distancing recommendations.

“We want to try to keep it low key with the way things are going, but we’ll welcome anybody that shows up,” he said.

At the Black Hills National Cemetery visitors are welcome to come and place wreaths and flags on the gravesites, but no public ceremonies will be held. Visitors are asked to abide by CDC and state recommendations for social distancing. Additionally, the National Cemetery Administration has announced that while it will still host a wreath laying ceremony, this will not be open to the public. Due to restrictions at the Black Hills National Cemetery, officials from the Sturgis VFW and American Legion said they would not host an official ceremony this year.

A statement from the National Cemetery Administration, which manages all 142 national cemeteries acknowledges the desire to keep the cemetery open to the public to honor fallen soldiers, as well as health concerns that could arise from doing so. It states, “the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) is committed to observing Memorial Day 2020 in a manner that honors those who sacrificed for our Nation while protecting the health and safety of visitors and our team members.”

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