While the coronavirus pandemic is forcing changes to the local observance of Memorial Day held inside the Emma Kelly Theater for the past 15 years, Statesboro and Bulloch County residents who gave their lives serving in times of war will still be honored with a modified program.
The American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90 will have its annual ceremony on the Emma Kelly Theater stage inside the Averitt Center, only without a live audience this year.
A video of a keynote speech, recognitions and “wreath laying” ceremonies will be aired over several online outlets on Memorial Day, May 25, beginning at 11 a.m., the time when the usual ceremony has always been held, said Lonnie Ellis, past commander of American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90.
Ellis is the featured speaker and plans to “fill the auditorium” with the imagined presence of a number of veterans and soldiers who have touched his life.
No spectators will be allowed in the Emma Kelly Theater while the observance is filmed. However, Ellis, who penned a compilation of poems inspired by his military experiences (“War and Peace and Poetry”), said his speech will “reflect my imagination of who I would like to see in the auditorium.”
Ellis is a 26-year member of the American Legion, a Marine combat veteran of the Gulf War and Army veteran who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom. A Bulloch County native, he is currently employed with a company used by the U.S. government to shuttle people to recruitment and military events and training.
The Memorial Day event, which will be available to watch on Facebook, YouTube and the Statesboro Herald website (www.statesboroherald.com), will feature intonations and other observations by Ellis; a welcome by Marvin Grimm, commander of the American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90; and presentations by American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90 members Charles “Skip” Campbell, senior vice commander; Barb Thames, vice commander and chaplain; Bob Marsh, treasurer; and Chris Uhlendorff, adjunct.
The stage will be set with a podium flanked by seven flags, six chairs, the POW-MIA chair and the Missing Man table.
The filming will begin Friday morning, following wreath laying ceremonies that will be included in the video, said Rahn Hutcheson, director of the Averitt Center.
Wreaths will be lain at the Vietnam Memorial at Statesboro’s Triangle Park on East Main Street at 9 a.m., Statesboro City Hall’s Eternal Flame at approximately 9:15 a.m., and the Bulloch County Judicial Annex at approximately 9:30 a.m., he said.
Ellis said Marines will assist with the Triangle Park ceremony, Statesboro police are expected to participate in the Eternal Flame ceremony, and he hopes Bulloch County sheriff’s deputies will help with the Judicial Annex ceremony.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.