PRESTON — The three veterans cemeteries in Minnesota will celebrate Memorial Day, but not with the normal complement of bands, speeches and rifle salutes.
Instead, the cemeteries, home to veterans and their loved ones, will celebrate with a recorded program titled, "Always Remember: A Minnesota Tribute to Veterans We've Lost," which will air at 7:30 p.m. Monday across the state on Twin Cities PBS–TPT, which partnered with the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs.
"It was the only option we could incorporate since we normally get 1,000 people like at Soldiers Field," said Bob Gross, the administrator of the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery–Preston.
The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it will hold a virtual Memorial Day program that includes remarks from Gov. Tim Walz and MDVA Commissioner Larry Herke, music, a rifle salute and stories of veterans lost that are traditionally included in a live event. However, this year's live programs were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gross said that while the cemetery in Preston will still be open for families and loved ones to visit graves, no program will take place. However, the cemetery staff is still busy getting the grounds ready with a boulevard of flags and marker flags at the grave sites of veterans.
"The weekend is Memorial Day ready," Gross said. "Our teams have been here the whole time, placing headstones. Our mission has not changed."
Gross said the site is a perfect place for families who have reason to visit, with large open green spaces and eagles flying overhead. Furthermore, the restrooms will be open to accommodate guests.
Most cities have canceled formal events surrounding the day usually set aside to remember those who have given their lives in service to their country.
One of the few celebrations that will take place is in Kenyon, where a modified parade will see members of the local color guard going by Kenyon Sunset Home and down the city's residential streets.
"We're are asking residents to come out on their lawns to watch the parade," said Mayor Doug Henke.
Henke said the local VFW will also place flags in five area cemeteries.
In fact, Tim Engstrom, director of communications for the Minnesota American Legion said many posts across Minnesota plan, at least, to place flags at graves of local cemeteries, and many cemeteries will see color guards and members who play "Taps," give rifle salutes and read names of those who are fallen.
Memorial Day around the region
Across Southeast Minnesota most Memorial Day events have been canceled due to the COVID-19. Here is a list of several communities and their Memorial Day plans.
• Byron: No events scheduled.
• Chatfield: A brief ceremony will be held at City Park, including a 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps.”
• Eyota: No program, however the American Legion will honor veterans at cemeteries in Dover, Viola and Eyota before returning to Freedom Park in Eyota at 11 a.m.
• Kasson: No events scheduled.
• Mazeppa: No parade or program, however rifle salutes will take place at three local cemeteries and the Veterans Memorial.
• Oronoco: The local American Legion will conduct ceremonies in both Pine Island and Oronoco.
• Pine Island: The local American Legion will conduct ceremonies in both Pine Island and Oronoco.
• Plainview: No program, however the American Legion will honor veterans at cemeteries.
• Red Wing: No events scheduled.
• St. Charles: No parade or program, however a rifle salute will take place at the Veterans Memorial at 10 a.m.
• Stewartville: No events scheduled.
• Wabasha: No events scheduled, however a pre-recorded Wabasha Memorial Day Program will air on WBHA-AM 1190 and WBHA-FM 99.7 at 10 a.m. Monday.
• Zumbrota: No program, however 134 flags will be placed in Covered Bridge Park and at veterans’ graves at the cemetery.