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Memorial Day moves to prerecorded video

While not open to the public, the wreath at the memorial in Walpole was laid as part of the remembrance.

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

Even in a time of global pandemic, some things are just too important to skip.

So while the Walpole Veterans Service Committee could have easily, and justifiably, opted not to have any kind of Memorial Day service, they instead did what so many others have had to during the time of COVID-19: they went virtual.

On Monday, many of the people that would have spoken on the common for Walpole’s traditional Memorial Day service gathered at the Senior Center to have Walpole Media record them doing the invocation, the benediction, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and most importantly, reading the names of Walpole veterans who have died since Veteran’s Day.

“We went to the senior center and had the town television channel record us doing all the things we would do during Memorial Day,” Rita Mienscow, the chairperson of the Veteran’s Service Committee explained. “So we had the invocation, we had the Veteran Service Officer give a quick hello and explain why we are doing it virtually. I gave my talk. And then after me, one of the other members had a few words to say. What I wanted was to have every member of the committee, for the closing of the video, have a couple of words to say to the town and our neighbors. So, we did everything we would normally do on the common, at the COA.”

These recording are going to be spliced together by Walpole Media TV, and aired on both television and the internet Monday, May 25.

But the recordings from the Senior Center aren’t going to be the only part of the programming. On Monday the 18th, the group gathered at the town common to record themselves doing some of the things they normally would at the ceremony, as well - albeit with no townspeople in attendance.

The American flag at Walpole Common was taken down and replaced by a small, masked group.

“We went to the common because every Memorial Day, we raise a brand-new flag. So, we took the old flag down and put a new one up, we laid a wreath on the memorial, and then from there, we went over to the VFW and had the firing detail do their shooting. The Walpole television station will put all of this together, and I gave her a beautiful pre-recorded version of "Taps" she is going to integrate into the video. We had the Boy Scouts from Walpole volunteer to go to the senior center and be recorded doing the Pledge of Allegiance. We had another young gentleman from Walpole sing the National Anthem. They’ll put everything together, and it will be ready to be broadcast on Monday.”

The firing detail was recorded in front of the VFW for the Memorial Day video.

Obviously, it was a lot of work. Mienscow noted that they wouldn’t have been allowed to hold a large gathering on the common like usual, as events like Walpole Day have already been cancelled. The group wanted to have the ingredients for a proper Memorial Day remembrance, rather than try a significantly smaller, watered-down version. This was especially important for Mienscow, who talked about how in the past, having her own father’s service acknowledged at the event meant so much to her.

“We wanted the video ready to go for Memorial Day because we don’t want Memorial Day to be an afterthought, and to say ‘we’re in this pandemic, so we can’t do anything this year.’ We can always do something. Memorial Day is super important to me, to this committee, and to this town. We’ve had a really good turnout on the common every year. What’s critical about not letting this go is every Memorial Day and every Veteran’s Day, we always read off the names of veterans who have passed away since the previous event. So, for Memorial Day, we read off the names of every veteran that’s passed away since Veterans Day, and on Veteran’s Day, we read off the names of every veteran that’s died since Memorial Day. I know when my father, who was a World War Two veteran, passed away, that meant a lot to me; to have his name read and his service acknowledged. It’s just not something we can let go because of this pandemic.”

As much as she appreciates what Walpole Media is doing, Mienscow acknowledged that, especially for Veteran’s Day in November, she’d really like to be able to have an in-person celebration. Because, while a taped broadcast is great, it cannot replace the sense of community that comes from people gathering in person.  

“The thing about Memorial Day is that it’s a town event. The Walpole Junior Women’s Club comes out and provides refreshments, and then after the event, there’s a beautiful luncheon at the VFW everybody is invited back to. So, just the fellowship; that’s going to be the biggest missing piece - that time together, seeing neighbors come together on the common. It’s like watching church virtually. It’s just not the same without that fellowship, without being with your neighbors, sitting down and having a meal with them afterwards, and chit-chatting. It’s the type of event that everyone contributes towards. So, that’s going to be absent of it this year.”

Still, it’s important to remember the lives lost fighting for our country. And for this year, at least, that means watching the video.

“I hope everyone takes the time to watch the video on Monday. It’s especially important for those people whose veterans passed away. It’s important to take that half hour out of the day to remember our veterans that paid the ultimate sacrifice, that died in service to our country.”

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