‘We had to do something’: Veterans honor the fallen in uncustomary Memorial Day ceremony

MADISON, Wis.– This year’s Memorial Day ceremony at the State Capitol was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Madison’s veterans couldn’t let the day go unrecognized.

Madison Veterans Council and Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War Henry Harnden Camp #2 organized brief ceremonies at Soliders Rest and Union Rest at Forest Hill Cemetery on Monday.

“We couldn’t not recognize Memorial Day,” veteran John Adams said. “That’s something that we all should do, is just think of the sacrifices that people, families have made.”

Madison Veterans Council President Gary Henke led the ceremony at Soliders Rest, which consisted of an opening prayer, military honors with a firing squad, the playing of taps, and a closing prayer.

“We were going to do it anyway. We had to do something,” Henke said. “Taps is really hard on a lot of people, including myself, because of the memories, but sometimes sad memories are good memories. They bring back what you’re really thinking about.”


People wore masks and spread out across the cemetery lawn. Organizers said they were happy to see a good turn-out, despite current challenges.

For those who weren’t able to make it to a ceremony, the veterans recommend other ways to remember.

“I think just silent meditation, silent prayer if you will. If you have memebers of your family who has served anywhere or at anytime, whether they were in combat or not, just remember them,” Vice Commander of Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War Henry Harnden Camp 2 Thomas Brodd said.

The Madison Veterans Council plans to return to the State Capitol for Veterans Day and next Memorial Day.