Memorial Day ceremonies will have a different look in the area than in previous years due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But the message of honoring veterans remains the same.
In lieu of a large public gathering with a keynote speaker, North Platte has plans for a short vehicle parade route through the city that will end with a flyover by “The Panther Flight” crew out of Colorado Springs, Colorado and headed by Loyd Remus.
“We put this together in the last couple of weeks because we knew we had to cancel the memorial service that we always plan,” said Kevin Kennedy, the president of the 20th Century Veterans Memorial and third vice commander of VFW Post No. 1504 in North Platte. “I was a combat-wounded marine in Vietnam and if you had a tummy-ache or the weather was bad, that didn’t mean you didn’t have a battle that day. You went to work.
“(Monday) is a very special day for a lot of men and women, past and present,” Kennedy said. “Given the sacrifices they made, I think the one we are all making now (with social distancing guidelines) is minuscule.”
The vehicle parade will begin at 9 a.m. from the VFW and American Legion buildings on East Fourth Street.
From there the route will head west to Jeffers Street then north to Cody Park.
After a drive through the park, the parade will head south on Jeffers down to its conclusion at the 20th Century Veterans Memorial.
Two wreaths will then be placed at the Law Enforcement Memorial at the site as well as at the base of the veterans memorial.
Kennedy said the parade and ceremony should be completed within an hour as the flyover is scheduled to reach the 20th Century Veterans Memorial at 10:15. From there the flyover will continue over Great Plains Health as a tribute to health care workers.
“If people want to step out of their cars but distance themselves from others and salute the planes as they flyover, that is fine,” Kennedy said. “We just don’t want a huge group (of people) lingering around and bringing their cars into the memorial before we come through with the procession.”
The planes in the flyover will head to North Platte after heading over the grounds at Fort McPherson National Cemetery, located just south of Maxwell.
The traditional Memorial Day celebration at the cemetery is canceled this year as well due to the pandemic.
There will be a short wreath-laying ceremony at 7:30 a.m. on Monday located inside the cemetery gates. The U.S Department of Veterans Affairs prohibited public events at national cemeteries earlier this month, including the tradition of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or other groups placing American flags on grave sites over the weekend.
“I’ve been putting on these (Memorial Day) celebrations for 30 years and this is the first time we’ve had to cancel,” said Tom Leet, the president of the Fort McPherson Memorial Association. “We’ve had rain, snow, cold weather and everything (for the ceremony) and held it, but this is something different.
“I still wanted to have something, at least put the wreath out, to show that we haven’t forgot about (those buried) at the Fort.”