It won’t be like any other Memorial Day weekend in recent history. Barbecues may be socially distanced, camping may not occur and most importantly, chances to honor the fallen will not be as easy to come by.
For American Legion Post 267 Commander Mark Haines, even though the pandemic has changed the legion’s plans of placing a flag on each and every grave in Harrison County, honoring the fallen has not. Haines, along with his two children, Markie and Chyanne Haines set out to spell I heart USA with flags on the corner of Pinecrest and Hwy. 59.
“It typically takes us 10-11 hours with a lot of volunteers to place the flags on the graves,” Mr. Haines said. “With COVID a lot of people are just concerned about being around others right now.”
So Haines, along with other Legion members, derived the plan to spell out words with the flags and remind passersby of what Memorial Day truly means.
“To the fallen, we raise our glass and see you soon my brothers and sisters,” he said.
For looking for a way to commemorate the holiday, a few services are still taking place including some virtual ones.
In Marshall, an all audio service will be presented on KMHT Radio. The Veteran’s Affairs Committee, KMHT Radio and Sullivan Funeral Home have partnered this year to present the presentation at 11 a.m. Monday, May 25 on 103.9 FM.
Tyler Memorial Funeral Home Cemetery and Mausoleum’s traditional in-person Memorial Day service will be moving online. The service will be broadcast live on Facebook at 11 a.m. Monday with guest speakers Lt. Col. Allen West and Skip Ogle.
The Facebook page can be found at facebook.com/TylerMemorialFH. The live video of the service will remain on the funeral home’s Facebook page. Tyler Memorial Funeral Home has hosted a Memorial Day service for over 25 years, General Manager Billy Robison said.
Panola County military veterans will lead the observance of Memorial Day on May 25 at 11:30 a.m. at the Veterans Memorial located next to the Panola County Historical and Genealogical Association at 213 N. Shelby St. near the downtown square in Carthage.
Panola County Judge LeeAnn Jones consulted with state officials to authorize the outdoor ceremony as long as social distancing is observed. Seating will be set up for social distancing.
Dick Shawver, incoming commander of the Texas Department of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, will be the guest speaker. Linda Kimberly will sing the National Anthem and “America the Beautiful.” Members of the local American Heritage Girls will read the names of Panola County war heroes who gave their lives in the nation’s defense. Retired Air Force veterans Ben Sepaugh and Frank Sepaugh will place a wreath in remembrance of these heroes.
The Rev. Kevin Otto, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Carthage, will deliver the opening and closing prayers, and the Rev. Kirby Hill, pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Carthage, will perform “Taps.”
Panola County Veteran Service Officer William Morris will lead the Pledge of Allegiance, and the colors will be posted by the Panola County Sheriff’s Honor Guard. The ceremony will conclude at noon with the raising of the American Flag to full staff.
The annual ceremony is jointly sponsored by VFW Post 5620, American Legion Post 353, American Legion Post 151 and the Panola County Historical and Genealogical Association.
Gregg County’s traditional ceremony will not take place Monday at the courthouse, according to organizer Joe Burke.
Burke, an Operation Desert Storm veteran, said veterans groups also have ruled out conducting the ceremony inside the parking garage of the courthouse because of the need to maintain social distancing.
Instead, Burke said Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4002 will open its doors at noon Monday at 401 Ambassador Row and feature a veteran participation report by post member Ben Gurganus on the history and significance of Memorial Day. He said Gurganus will give a talk and a slide presentation, and food likely will be provided afterward.
“We are not going to hold a ceremony where we do a 21-gun salute,” Burke said.
He said the post will maintain social distancing by limiting occupancy to 75 people, one-quarter of the maximum capacity, and added that the post will stay open until 8 p.m. Monday.
Social distancing will not be an issue at a ceremony set for 9 a.m. Monday at the U.S. Veterans Monument at Harris Street Park in Kilgore because it will take place in a large area, said John Edney, chairman of the Veterans Monument Committee-Kilgore. However, he said the event will be canceled if it rains.
Edney said the area can hold as many as 100 people. Skip Beal, a Vietnam War veteran and retired Baptist preacher, will be the guest speaker.
Many organizations, including the Marshall Rotary Club, have shown honor by placing flags outside residences and businesses.
Texas Amvets in East Texas will use the holiday to accept donations to help veterans pay for housing, clothing and food, volunteer Danny Dover said. Donations will be accepted through credit cards by calling (903) 291-1916.