The Hailey Cemetery serves as the final resting place of nearly 400 veterans and soldiers killed in action. Their graves represent more than 150 years of the United States’ armed conflicts, including both world wars, Korea, Vietnam and contemporary military engagements.
Monday, May 27, marks another Memorial Day for the United States. Though the precise origins of the holiday are subject to considerable debate by scholars, since the early 1970s the celebration has been formalized to land on the final Monday in May each year. Across the country, citizens assemble to pay their respects to fallen soldiers, and the Wood River Valley is no exception.
Hailey’s Memorial Day ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. Monday at the cemetery, and will be carried out in its entirety regardless of the weather.
The event brings together representatives of all five branches of the military—the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy—as well as any well-wishing civilians who wish to pay their respects.
Speakers from the U.S. Armed Forces will guide the ceremony through its traditional program, including flag-folding, a moment of silence, a 21-gun salute, a performance of “Taps,” and—weather permitting—a flyover of military aircraft in the “missing man” formation to commemorate downed pilots. This last portion is the only part of the ceremony that may be called off in the event of heavy rain, purely for the sake of the pilots’ safety.
“It’s such a thoughtful thing and it gives people a good way to pay respects to all veterans and the fallen,” event organizer Geegee Lowe said. “People come from all over to celebrate the memory of their lost loved ones.”
In addition to the traditional proceedings, the dead will be further honored with music by local singing group A Few Good Men and by the Boise Highlander Bagpipes.
The local Girl Scout troop will serve some light refreshments following the ceremony.
Afterward, all veterans and visiting military representatives are invited to a complimentary appreciation luncheon catered by Mahoney’s Bar & Grill in Bellevue. The lunch will be held at the Upper Big Wood River Grange 192, at 609 S. Third Ave. in Hailey.
The whole ceremony lasts between 45 minutes and an hour, but the commemoration of those resting in the Hailey Cemetery is ongoing, and for Memorial Day in particular, spans the whole weekend.
On Friday, cemetery staff will walk throughout the area, decorating the graves of all known veterans and servicemen with American flags.
On Sunday, those same graves will be adorned with carnations. Flags and flowers together will make them easy to find for any who wish to pay proper respects.
Since last November marked the centennial of the World War I armistice, the event organizers will pay special attention to those who served during the Great War. The graves of every soldier from this conflict buried in Hailey will be marked with a poppy.
Made popular following the publication of Lt. Col. John McCrae’s seminal World War I poem, “In Flanders Fields,” the flowers are traditionally used in the British Commonwealth in memory of fallen soldiers, though the practice has become popular throughout the rest of the world in connection to that war. As the poem goes, “If ye break faith with us who die we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields.”
All these adornments and decorations contribute to the cemetery as a place of true commemoration.
“The grounds are so lovely and so peaceful,” Lowe said. “It’s just a nice tribute all around.”
The Hailey Cemetery is accessible via both Maple Street and Fox Acres Road in Hailey. The office is at 511 Maple St. To learn more about the cemetery or the Memorial Day service, visit haileycemetery.com or call 208-788-2007.
Meanwhile, in Ketchum, the north valley will holds its own vigils for the holiday. Higher Ground’s annual “Carry the Load” march will commence at 9:30 a.m. Monday in Ketchum Town Square. Participants will walk around town, ending at the Ketchum Cemetery, on Main Street just north of town. Visit ketchumcemetery.org for details.
At 11 a.m., the American Legion will hold its traditional Memorial Day ceremony. As with Hailey, the Ketchum service will include prayers, a 21-gun salute, music and speakers. Lt. Col. Brandon N. Christensen will provide the keynote speech this year, and the ceremony will feature a reading of “In Flanders Fields.”
The graves of soldiers in Ketchum will each bear a white cross and an American flag, and similarly to Hailey, the graves of those who served in the First World War will be marked with poppies.
“There are 220 [servicemen] buried in Ketchum Cemetery,” said event organizer John O’Connor of the American Legion. “They go back to the Civil War and the Spanish-American. That’s a lot of history we’re honoring.”
In addition to the 2018 centennial of the First World War, this ceremony will also honor the upcoming 75th anniversary of D-Day, and the centennial of the foundation of the American Legion.
Between the two ceremonies, the Wood River Valley will honor more than 600 fallen soldiers on Memorial Day. People will set aside some time on Monday to pay proper respects to those who gave, as President Lincoln said, “the last full measure of devotion.”