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Bismarck Veterans Day ceremony scaled back due to pandemic

Bismarck Veterans Day ceremony scaled back due to pandemic

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Local Veterans Day services will look different this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that doesn't change anything for Fred Rios.

"It don't make any difference whether it's cold or what, we honor our veterans," said the Mandan-area U.S. Air Force veteran.

The annual ceremony at the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum has been scaled back to an outdoor event at the All Veterans Memorial on the Capitol Grounds in Bismarck on Wednesday.

"We didn't want to totally cancel everything," said Janette Fetch, commander of American Legion Lloyd Spetz Post No. 1. Pandemic restrictions would have allowed only half capacity at the auditorium, she said.

Organizers also thought of the ages of ceremony attendees and participants when altering the ceremony, which will be livestreamed on the American Legion's Facebook page, at facebook.com/NDLegionBis.

The event begins at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday and will include the presentation of the colors, the Pledge of Allegiance, a pastor's invocation, introductions of veterans organizations, a rifle salute and the playing of taps.

The ceremony will conclude with the ringing of a bell 11 times at 11 a.m., followed by the pastor's benediction. The armistice ending World War I was signed at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918.

"It's pretty short this year, and if people want to attend outside, they can, or if they want to watch it livestreamed, they'll be able to do that as well," Fetch said. 

Face masks will be available and encouraged for attendees, she said. 

"We want people to wear masks because it's the right thing to do," she said.

If the day is bright, the sun will shine through an opening in the wall of the memorial, illuminating the state of North Dakota on a globe.

"It's very special," Rios said. 

Wednesday is forecast to be partly cloudy in the late morning, with a chance of sun from time to time, according to Bismarck National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Abeling.

"There will be some clouds, but it won't be 100% cloud coverage, so you definitely have a chance to see the memorial have sun shine on the globe, but can't guarantee it," he said.

The forecast looks dry for Wednesday. Temperatures are likely to be in the upper 20s during the ceremony, and a wind chill from 15 mph winds could be as low as the upper single digits to the teens. Abeling said ceremony attendees should dress warmly, wear gloves and cover their heads.

"If you're going to be out there for a while, it could get a little bit uncomfortable," he said.

Typical Veterans Day observances in Bismarck include a full-scale presentation in the Heritage Center's auditorium and dinners for veterans put on by local organizations, according to former state district judge and attorney general Bob Wefald, a U.S. Navy and Naval Reserve veteran from Bismarck.

"You would have lots of people there," he said.

This year, Wefald has heard of no other Veterans Day events other than the Capitol Grounds ceremony.

"I'm very sorry that COVID this year is interrupting this, but I'm hopeful that in 2021, we'll be back to a great celebration, a great observance on Memorial Day and Veterans Day for 2021," he said.

The University of Mary plans a small campus event closed to the public. At 10 a.m. Wednesday during All University Mass, veterans' names will be read off, and President Monsignor James Shea will speak about veterans. The event will be livestreamed at youtube.com/watch?v=DYe25KNxkmg.

Rios will be part of the honor guard participating in the Capitol Grounds ceremony Wednesday. He also participates as a greeter at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery Memorial Day ceremony, which also was curtailed this year, with a shortened, livestreamed service and limited in-person attendance.

Amid the pandemic, Rios has continued to honor veterans in ceremonies -- including bugling taps for a funeral service Tuesday afternoon at the cemetery south of Mandan. 

"We still have our distancing and our masks and everything," Rios said.

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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