Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz cancelled the Memorial Day ceremony on Monday out of an abundance of caution due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
But at the Veterans Memorial flag pole on the Park Strip, where the ceremony is held each Memorial Day, Anchorage citizens have taken things into their own hands.
A group is pulling together an unsanctioned Memorial Day ceremony, honoring the fallen war heroes of America.
Radio talk show host Eddie Burke came up with the idea late last week, after becoming irritated that the mayor cancelled the annual observance at the Veteran Memorial. Last year, Berkowitz was one of the speakers at the event.
This year’s observance will begin at 10 am and will be abbreviated from years past. It will be citizen-driven, rather than government organized.
While chairs cannot be provided for attendees — that would get the organizers in trouble with municipal code enforcers — people may bring their own folding chairs, said Bernadette Wilson, one of the organizers. She encourages people to practice physical distancing at the event and to bring nose-mouth coverings if they feel more comfortable.
Lt. Gen. Craig Campbell, (ret.), of the Alaska National Guard, will give the keynote address. He is also a former commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and former lieutenant governor.
John Teamer, a well known vocalist retired from the US Air Force, will sing the National Anthem and the Alaska Flag Song.
Wilson and Burke expect there will be a wreath-laying at the memorial, as is tradition, led by Assembly member Jamie Allard, who is a veteran. Dr. Jerry Prevo has been asked to give the invocation.
Those expecting a military band will find that Monday’s event will have a lone bugle player, who will give a rendition of “Taps.” Wilson said the purpose is not to celebrate, but to remember the sacrifices of the many who died while serving in the military.
“This isn’t a political event,” Burke said. “It’s about honoring the fallen.”