For the second year in a row, many of those who attended Mitchell's Memorial Day celebration brought umbrellas to shield themselves from rain. Unlike at previous iterations of the event, some also opted to shield their faces with masks.
Hugh Homes, past state commander for American Legion Post 18, said choosing to move forward with this year's event was a somewhat last-minute decision, as most other events in Mitchell and across the world have been cancelled or postponed in recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But Holmes said the decision to move forward was made due to the enthusiastic response of those involved.
"It was one of those things that people said, 'yes, yes, yes,'" Holmes told The Daily Republic after the event. "And the crowd, they come out to honor their past family members, whether they're veterans or not. It's a great day, overall."
Holmes said volunteers began putting small American flags on graves on Wednesday and finished Sunday. Many graves around the cemetery were decorated with additional flowers or signs brought by family members or friends.
Monday's celebration began at 9 a.m. at the American Legion Cemetery, with taps played by Post 18's Dave Schulte and a salute to the deceased given by the South Dakota Army National Guard Funeral Honors Team at three locations around the cemetery. At 10 a.m., additional people arrived at Servicemen's Memorial Cemetery for the main portion of the event.
Wreaths were placed on four crosses in honor of the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Prisoner of War/Missing in Action auxiliaries. Read aloud were the names of 67 area veterans who died within the past year.
Sarah Bultje and Caleb Machada, both students at John Paul II Elementary School, read their original poem and essay, respectively, at Monday's event. Bultje and Machada were selected as winners of the American Legion Auxiliary's poem and essay contest, and both wrote about the importance of helping and serving veterans.
Reverend Keith Nelson, of the Downtown Mitchell First United Methodist Church, gave the invocation and benediction, Joe Pekas played taps, and the Memorial Day event was concluded with the national anthem, sung by Nicole Chenoweth.