Time To Remember: Idaho Veterans Cemetery Will Offer Full In-Person 2021 Memorial Day Honors
Memorial Day 2020, much like every major holiday during the height of the pandemic, was an extremely low-key affair, as Idaho and much of the nation was in a lock-down. But with new cases of COVID-19 on the decline, and the opportunity to get a COVID vaccine for anyone over the age of 12, the 2021 edition of Memorial Day might attract record numbers to the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery. The cemetery’s director says it will also be a moment to invite even higher emotions.
“Throughout every day I have the best opportunity to work with Idaho's veterans and their families,” said Idaho State Veteran Cemetery Bureau Chief James Earp. “Memorial Day kind of culminates a lot of those emotions, not only with the folks in Idaho, but for me, having served in the military myself for 20 years.”
Earp visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about preparations for this year’s ceremonies, and the unveiling of a unique statue at the cemetery, just in time for Memorial Day.
“It's a time of remembrance. It's also a time of significant pride, knowing that so many folks volunteered to protect our nation and our freedom and our way of life.”
Read the full transcript below:
GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. Memorial Day 2021…my goodness… it is this coming Monday. The pandemic has changed so much for more than a year, including how we gather together to remember. So, let's talk about what the plan is for this year with James Earp. He's the State Veteran Cemetery Bureau Chief. Mr. Earp, good morning.
JAMES EARP: Good morning, George.
PRENTICE: Bring us up to date. What are the current protocols for visiting the state veteran's cemetery?
EARP: Well, it's good that you asked, George. We've been blessed with an incredible string of good fortune to see that we're in Stage Four as a state. Now, what that means is there are no restrictions with regards to group sizes. We do encourage folks who continue to have concerns about COVID to adhere to any type of personal protective conditions that they wish to, such as wearing masks or social distancing. But in this case here, the general public is encouraged to continue to visit as they would normally visit, but also have those individual concerns of theirs readily available to prepare for.
PRENTICE: I want to talk about Memorial Day in a moment, but I'd like to talk a bit about what will happen this Saturday: a pretty special event at the State Veteran's Cemetery and the unveiling of a very unique statue. What can you tell us about this?
EARP: So, yes. On Saturday, May 29th at 9:00 a.m. here at the Idaho State Veteran's Cemetery, there will be a statue unveiling. It's a life sized statue of two warriors, one male, one female. The statue depicts reverence, respect and resolve. It's just been an incredible contribution by some incredible folks from Idaho, primarily working with Idaho artist Benjamin Victor. This was Governor Kempthorne who worked with Ben, Victor to produce this. Ben is an extremely talented artist. He's the only living artist to have three statues at the US Capitol. So we're blessed to have his work here at the Idaho State Veteran's Cemetery in perpetuity. You know, it's been a collaboration with incredible folks such as Guho Corporation. Nick Guho and his team helped establish the base and the surroundings, the landscaping. We have folks like Albertson's who were significant support of the project. Folks from Borbonus Stone donated the rock from Table Rock Sandstone that was provided. I know I'm leaving out a lot of folks there, but it's one of these great projects that symbolizes how great Idaho is when the community comes together to recognize folks like the veterans and their families
PRENTICE: And it's bronze. Can you paint us a word picture? I think it's called I've Got Your Back.
EARP: Yeah. You'll see that the statue represents,,, it spans multiple generations of military service. It depicts a soldier who is grieving, and the morale of his loved ones and the future represented by another warrior who basically has their hand on the back of the one soldier facing back towards the cemetery. This soldier is now facing the flag with a sense of determination to always watch over those that served.
PRENTICE: Can't wait to see it. Let's talk about Memorial Day. Remind us… there will be flags placed on the graves, I'm assuming, in the coming days?
EARP: Yeah, we're very proud. Last year when the nation was going through some difficulties of how to support Memorial Day, our cemetery in Idaho…we stayed true to the tradition and the support that symbolized our nation's sacrifice. And so on Friday, we actually have a group of young people from the Captain Art Jackson Young Marines. They've come out every single year. They're responsible. Their mission will be to place and place a flag at each marked burial site at the veterans cemetery. They do this extremely professional by hand, placing the flag, stepping back, rendering a hand salute, kind of moving to the next site. This is, again, another great program, another great organization with the help of the youth. These folks, again, their organizations called the Captain Art Jackson Young Marines. And they'll be out Friday to place flags throughout the veteran's cemetery. So, George, also one other significant event that's happening is our Avenue of Flags. The veteran's cemetery will be placed by an organization called The Mission Continues. This is a veterans service organization. They'll be coming out with their volunteers to place the flags throughout the entryways and throughout the veterans cemetery. So we'll have our annual flags placed by the group. The mission continues.
PRENTICE: And how about Monday, Memorial Day?
EARP: So for Memorial Day, we put together some demonstrations that will be held throughout Memorial Day starting at 10:00 a.m. with an aircraft fly over. The aircraft fly over will be provided by the Idaho Air National Guard. And also we have volunteers from the Idaho Military Museum who will be performing the traditional cannon salute and salute will be initiated right after the flyover. And then we'll have a rendering of taps by a volunteer from Bugles Across America. And Amazing Grace performed the bagpipes of men from volunteer from the Boise Highlanders.
PRENTICE: I have to assume that you have more than a few men and women who you have known that are resting in honor at the cemetery.
EARP: Yes, sir, absolutely.
PRENTICE: Can I also assume that those memories become rather vivid and their faces leap to the front of your mind's eye on such an occasion as Memorial Day?
EARP: You know, George, throughout every day I have the best opportunity to work with Idaho's veterans and their families. And you're absolutely correct. Memorial Day kind of culminates a lot of those emotions, not only with the folks in Idaho, but for me, having served in the military myself for 20 years. It's a time of remembrance. It's also a time of significant pride, knowing that so many folks volunteered to protect our nation and our freedom and our way of life.
PRENTICE: Well as a proud son of a man and woman who are both buried at Arlington. I want to thank you for your service and wish you all the best this Memorial Day. He is James Earp…and thank you for giving us some time.
EARP: Thank you, George. It's been a pleasure.
Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren
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