FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Hundreds gathered at the Fayetteville National Cemetery Monday, May 30, to honor those who died in service to our country.
Recognizing all branches of the military, the National Cemetery held its first in-person Memorial Day ceremony since 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the country.
Jannie Layne was the Chairwoman of the Fayetteville National Cemetery Advisory Council. She, along with other council members, oversaw putting Monday’s program together.
During the ceremony, many young children and teens assisted with wreaths, sang the national anthem, and even gave a keynote speech.
“For this year we decided because of all the things we do here that the youth should be involved,” said Layne. “It would be good to give them a portion of control of the program and they stepped up and did a great job.”
The ceremony also featured the Singing Men of Arkansas. Director Jerry Newman says this performance was their last performance until they start things back up in October. He expressed the choir’s gratitude to be in person for the ceremony once again, having been a part of previous ceremonies.
“We normally have about 50 men oh we’re running about 30 now just because of Covid issues and so it’s great that we can get back together and sing,” said Newman.
"It’s therapeutic now that we’re able to assemble in person once again. It was very challenging and to those of us in leadership positions it was challenging for us as well because we had to become very creative in finding ways to communicate with those who were shut-in," said Lawrence Anderson, a U.S. Army veteran and volunteer councilmember.
"We normally have about 50 men, oh we’re running about 30 now just because of COVID issues and so it’s great that we can get back together and sing," said Jerry Newman from Singing Men of Arkansas.
Officials estimate that more than 500 people attended Monday's ceremony in Fayetteville.
Officials with Regional National Cemetery Improvement Corporation say the Cemetery is constantly growing and needs more space. President Steve Real says they’ve contributed nearly 14 acres of additional land to the cemetery. He says since 1989, every veteran buried at the National Cemetery was buried on land given by the RNCIC. They rely on donations to purchase properties surrounding the cemetery, then prepare them for burials. You can donate here at their website.
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