Memorial Day: COVID-19 puts damper on area services

RAY HAMM OF Iron Mountain places flags on veterans’ graves at Cemetery Park in Iron Mountain on Wednesday. He has been volunteering for the past 21 years. Since 2003, Breitung Township School District teacher Andy Mendini has been organizing the flag-placing event, which normally includes fifth-graders from both Breitung Township and Iron Mountain schools, but not this year due to the COVID-19 shutdown. (Terri Castelaz/Daily News photo)

IRON MOUNTAIN — This Memorial Day under COVID-19 restrictions will mean traditional services and parades called off or done differently, organizers said.

The Dickinson County Office of Veterans Affairs will honor fallen heroes with a live radio broadcast that starts at 9 a.m. Monday on Channel 106.7.

Featured speaker will be Denise Formolo, veterans service director at the Dickinson County Office of Veterans Affairs in Iron Mountain.

She will tell about a local World War II veteran with a connection to the raising of the flag in Iwo Jima.

Formolo learned details about the veteran’s story from a nephew who stopped at the office. After some research, he was able to share the details of his uncle’s heroism in Iwo Jima.

“This is a great, appropriate story for Memorial Day,” Formolo said. “I don’t want to tell too many details … just that we are pretty excited to share it with the listeners.”

Herb Becka, chaplain at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain, will give the invocation for the service. Other details include Crystal Hogan singing “God Bless America,” and a musical number by Girl Scout Troop 5190.

Paige Smith, the Dickinson Veterans Alliance scholarship winner, will read her essay. This year’s essay topic was “Sacrifices of Gold Star Families.”

“This was chosen because later this year we will be placing a memorial at the Dickinson County Courthouse honoring those veterans and families,” Formolo said.

Formolo also noted this would have been Kingsford High School band director Ben Sherk’s last event for the year given his retirement.

“It’s unfortunate with the coronavirus that we can’t have any of our ceremonies and parades,” she said. “A lot of people are missing a lot of things, but we are trying to adjust the best we can and go in whatever direction we need to.”

With Memorial Day ceremonies in Iron Mountain regularly broadcasted on the radio station every year, they were able to line everything up with the help of John Kohler to get the program together.

“There was no way we were not going to have a Memorial Day service,” Formolo said. “We need to do that, however we had to.”

The Tony Revord American Legion Post of Powers-Spalding will be conducting services at three cemeteries on Monday. Legion officials remind everyone attending to please adhere to the distancing guidelines provided to protect yourselves and others. Ceremonies will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Harris Township Presbyterian Cemetery; at 9 a.m. at the Wilson Cemetery and at 9:45 a.m. at the Powers-Spalding Cemetery.

As of today, a decision hasn’t been made services will be conducted at the Niagara Cemetery.

Other area communities that have cancelled include Aurora, Wis./Homestead Cemetery; Breitung Township Cemetery; Norway parade and cemetery; Felch Cemetery; Foster City Cemetery; Ralph Cemetery; Hermansville; Faithorn; Pembine, Wis.; and Iron County cemeteries.

Even with no services, area individuals, veterans organizations and groups have placed flags on veterans’ gravesites in cemeteries throughout the region.


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