All ages involved with Memorial Day service at small Pratt County location.
For 135 consecutive years, the Iuka community has held a Memorial Day Program to honor the deceased veterans from Iuka. The Iuka Memorial Association has carried on the tradition since the early 1900s.
This year’s ceremony at the Iuka Methodist Church followed the traditional format established at the first ceremony on June 27, 1885. The ceremony included the congregation saying the Pledge of Allegiance, singing “God Bless America,” a prayer by Rev. Tom Griffith, the choir singing “Recessional” with soloist Jason Reed, accompanist Jane Biles and director Beth Novotny.
Guest speaker for the event was Douglas Houston, Chancellor of the Yuba Community College District in Northern California. Houston is retired from U.S. Army Reserves and has served as administrator to several community colleges and commander of various military units.
At the 2018 Memorial Day Program, Houston was suggested as a speaker to Jane Ann Starrett, perhaps by her daughter Leigh Ann Hall. Houston’s wife is Kathryn Briggeman and Starrett and Hall know the Briggemans well and knew Houston would be an excellent speaker, said Marjorie Buck, event participant.
A file of potential speakers is kept for the event and every year feelers are sent out. The decision to ask Houston was made early this year and he was able to attend, Buck said.
A roll call of the dead honors the military dead from Iuka. Larry Briggeman read the name of the conflict and then the name of the deceased soldier, twice. Reading the name twice is a custom from the Civil War when roll call was given and a soldier did not answer the name was called again. If still no response, the soldier was presumed dead. As each name was read, Lorelai Buck and Erin Schwertfeger placed small American flags in a special stand while Cheney Taylor sounded a drum after each name.
Jason Reed sang “Sleep Soldier Boy” with Jane Biles accompanying and a final benediction by the church choir.
Following the church ceremony, the congregation gathered at the Iuka Township Cemetery on the north side of Iuka. The American Legion Riders and Patriot Guard provided with color guard with flags of the United States, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and POWs and MIAs.
Performing the traditional “They’ll Never March Again” were Marjorie Buck, Larry Briggeman, Tom Griffith and Beth Novotny.
Flower girls Emma Barker-Anderson, Emma Jarboe, Kate Briggeman, Laura Briggeman, Emily Erickson, Avery Blasi, Reagan Blasi and Jacie Hemphill placed flowers by two monuments honoring the Civil War Veterans and other military veterans buried at the cemetery.
Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Andrew Hughes and Sgt. Jesse Waugh, 1161st Forward Support Company stationed in Pratt, provided a gun salute and Mark Graber performed “Taps” on his trumpet.
Hughes gave a brief speech on the service members who had fallen to conclude the ceremony.
The ceremony was followed by a meal at the Iuka Fire Station. The meal is held every five years and includes pulled pork, beans, carrots, pickles, cake, water and tea.