IOWA, USA — This Memorial Day weekend, different Iowa organizations honored fallen military personnel who died while in service to their country. These honors included everything from memorial services to hikes to concerts.
Volunteers at Davenport's City Cemetery worked hard over the past year to uncover the histories of two civil war veterans who were previously in unmarked graves: Stephen Van Fleet and Johann Gustav Krusch both served in the Civil War.
Natalie Woodhurst works with the Davenport City Cemetery Partnership, and was part of this project.
"We've added some every year since I've been on board. It's really great that we can finally get headstones for these folks and finally have them recognized," Woodhurst said.
Gustav enlisted in the Fifth Iowa Calvary Regiment in 1861, and Private Van Fleet was a member of the 37th Iowa Infantry.
The Iowa Department of Veteran Affairs once again hosted an in-person Memorial Day event at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery. For the keynote speaker, IDVA invited the Executive Officer of the USS Iowa Submarine.
Karl Lettow, who works in Public Affairs with the Iowa Department of Veteran Affairs, says honoring Memorial Day is a part of Iowa's culture.
"We're Iowans, honoring our veterans is in our DNA. On Veterans Day, we honor veterans of all walks of life. For Memorial Day in particular, we honor those who gave their life in the line of duty so that we can live the way that we do right now."
And it's not just military cemeteries that honored Memorial Day.
At Resthaven Cemetery in West Des Moines, many gathered for a ceremony honoring fallen members of the armed forces. McLaren's is the private cemetery with the largest number of veterans interred in Iowa, nearly 4,500. They had over 4,000 American flags on the grounds to honor them.
"We need to continue to do activities," said Dan Gannon, commander of the Des Moines Chapter 20 of Disabled American Veterans. "Because if we quit doing those activities as things go--the less you do of something over time, they disappear. So we need to continue to up these and get involved with this."
Gannon says this event was a promising show of support for veterans coming out of the pandemic.
"I think the turnout has been really good. It's nice to see people get through the pandemic and start coming back out and doing the things that are important, and that's remembering our veterans on special days like today," Gannon said.
Operation Impact 22, a metro nonprofit, marked Memorial Day with a different kind of event. The group supports mental health for veterans, law enforcement officers and first responders. They hosted their sixth annual Memorial Day Hike from Waukee to the Veterans Cemetery to raise awareness for this issue, with upwards of 50 veterans taking part.
Veterans of Foreign Wars of Iowa hosted a concert at the World War II memorial on the State Capitol grounds, a patriotic performance from the Greater Des Moines Community Band.
"Please honor our fallen with somber respect, but remember to celebrate their life. America is only the land of the free so long as it remains the home of the brave," State VFW Commander Russ Saffell said.
You can watch the performance on their Facebook page.