Honoring our veterans despite COVID-19 restrictions

Mark Scheele, Basin Electric chief pilot, is the deputy commander of the Bismarck Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol. For 11 years, the squadron has been involved with the Wreaths Across America program, putting a wreath on each of the more than 7,000 headstones at the North Dakota Veteran’s Cemetery, which is south of Mandan.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there was limited in-person attendance at the Dec. 18 ceremony. Scheele and his team provided a virtual video so that family, friends, and supporters could still be a part of the ceremony.

Scheele and his squadron were grateful that despite limiting in-person attendance, sponsorships of the wreaths didn’t suffer.

“We still did all of the fundraising and had enough sponsorships to cover every headstone once again,” Scheele says.

Most years, wreaths are handed out after the ceremony and placed on the headstones. This year, the wreaths were placed around the edge of the cemetery and people were invited to come during two different time frames to place a wreath.

“We had a designated time for people to place wreaths on headstones they specifically sponsored, and then we invited the public to place the rest of the wreaths. It helped keep everyone from coming at the same time so we could maintain social distancing,” Scheele says.

Scheele says that despite the additional restrictions, he was happy with how the event turned out.

 “We really didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out to be a great day,” Scheele says. “We had fantastic weather and a large number of people show up throughout the morning to help place wreaths.”

Each headstones was adorned by a wreath by 11:30 a.m. that morning.

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