Iuka plans to hold cemetery ceremony May 25

Jennifer Stultz
The American Legion Riders and Patriot Guard provided the flag colors of United States Armed Forces at the Iuka Cemetery Memorial Day Program last year in Iuka. An outdoor ceremony will be held this year, but indoor programming has been canceled. Pratt-area 2020 Memorial Day services have also been canceled because of coronavirus and weather concerns.

Iuka will conduct its 136th consecutive Memorial Day Program on Monday, May 25 at the Iuka Cemetery, but all other Pratt-area services for the day have been canceled.

George Stevens, spokesperson for the annual Memorial Day ceremony held at the Pratt Regional Airport and B-29 Bombers on the Prairie Museum, said weather concerns combined with coronavirus guidelines led to the decision to cancel Pratt Memorial Day activities.

“Those who likely attend are in the highest risk category as far as coronavirus is concerned,” Stevens said. “That, combined with the fact that we have poor weather conditions forecast for Memorial Day, it just seems like the right thing to do to cancel for this year.”

The Iuka Memorial Day Committee, led by Marjorie Buck, decided to hold this year’s ceremonies all outside, to better comply with state health guidelines.

“Due to Covid-19 concerns and guidelines that limit public gatherings, this year’s program will be held entirely at the Iuka cemetery,” Buck said. “There will be no indoor program at the Iuka Methodist Church.”

The outdoor cemetery program will begin at 11 a.m., and those who plan to attend are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, Buck said. Social distancing of 6 feet is suggested. Masks are at the discretion of each individual.

There will not be a formal speaker, but the service will include music, placement of flowers at the Civil War veterans’ monuments, a Military Salute to the Dead, and taps.

Iuka’s “Decoration Day” observance was begun by the Mark D. Updegraff GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) Post No. 358, and was a community-wide tribute to their military dead. They felt a strong commitment to establishing an appropriate recognition of the sacrifice made by all service personnel who serve in armed conflicts. Since the early 1900s tradition has been carried on by the Iuka Memorial Association.

“This year’s program will follow part of the traditional format established with Iuka’s first ceremony on June 27, 1885,” Buck said. “The ‘roll call of the dead’ is patterned after the custom of company officers in Civil War armies: the name of each soldier was called twice, and when there was no answer a roll of the drum responded, signifying ‘presumed dead’. This ritual is repeated for the deceased veterans of Iuka, with a flag placed in a fan-shaped stand in honor of each individual.”

Buck said that ceremony will follow tradition with a reading of the Gettysburg Address. A few appropriate remarks will also be given.