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Blake Nicholson, Published May 25 2009

Memorial Day observances held in North Dakota

BISMARCK – Memorial Day ceremonies in North Dakota were held in a lot of the usual places, and also one unusual one.

Observances were held, as they are every year, at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery south of Mandan, the Liberty Memorial Bridge between Bismarck and Mandan, and the All Veterans Memorial on the state Capitol grounds.

“Thank you and God bless you to all our veterans,” Gov. John Hoeven said at the Capitol ceremony, which was moved indoors to the state Heritage Center because of rain. “Memorial Day and Veterans Day are days we set aside especially to remember you, but we need to remember you every day.”

A ceremony also was scheduled Monday afternoon at the Whitestone Hill Battlefield State Historic Site near Kulm, in southeastern North Dakota.

The site is where U.S. Cavalry troops under Brig. Gen. Alfred Sully battled with Sioux warriors on Sept. 3, 1863. The state Historical Society says it was the last major battle between soldiers and American Indians east of the Missouri River.

Twenty-two soldiers and more than 100 Indians died. The site has monuments honoring both sides in the battle.

Diane Rogness, historic sites manager for the Historical Society, said in an interview before Monday’s ceremony that there was no special reason for planning the event at the site, which she said is one of five official Civil War battle sites in North Dakota.

“I’m not sure it’s been done at all in the past,” she said. “I thought that it needed to be done because there are graves on site.”

The Historical Society, with a grant from the American Battlefields Protection Program, has hired a group from the Standing Rock Tribal Preservation Office to do an archaeological survey of the site this year.

“With the results of that survey we plan to write a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places,” Rogness said.

Hoeven proclaimed a day of prayer in the state Monday, directed all government agencies to fly the U.S. and North Dakota flags at half staff until noon, and asked state residents to take part in a national moment of prayer at 11 a.m. and a national moment of remembrance at 3 p.m.

At the Capitol ceremony, Hoeven paid special tribute to soldiers with North Dakota ties who have been killed in the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, reading their names aloud.

“Pray for the soldiers who are in harm’s way today, and for their families,” he said.