As over 700 firefighters put themselves in harm’s way to stay off one of the largest wild fires on the Kenai Peninsula in recent history, community members turned out to remember those who had been killed in service to our nation. Three Memorial Day ceremonies were held this year in the twin cities of Kenai and Soldotna. First was a morning parade of flags at the Kenai Cemetery followed by a noon service at Lief Hanson Memorial Park and a 2:00pm ceremony in Soldotna at the Community Memorial Park. In Kenai the Trefren family, Brenda, Sarah, Daniel, David, Matthew and Natalia made a poppy wreath with a poppy to remember each member of their family who had died in military service. “We had ten names in our wreath including grandfathers and great grandfathers, they didn’t all die while serving, but teaching my kids to honor and respect their lives is part of what Memorial Day means to me,” said Brenda Trefren of Soldotna.
At the Kenai and Soldotna ceremony a moment of silence was asked for especially for Alaska State Troopers Gabriel Rich and Sgt. Patrick Johnson who were killed earlier this spring while on duty in Tanana. In Soldotna American Legion Post 20 Commander Jim Herrick looked out at those assembled and pointed out that it seemed like most of the folks gathered were the same ones he saw at all three services, “That makes us feel real good, because today is a day to remember the fallen.” State senator Peter Micciche in his remarks echoed the theme in his remarks, “Your job today, all of our jobs today is to remember,” he said. Soldotna Mayor Dr. Nels Anderson recalled the story of a mentor of his who never talked about the war when he was growing up, but had written down his experiences before passing away. In sharing those writings memories of the Great Generation who kindled a fresh. Also at the Soldotna ceremony Col. James Halliday brought a few brief remarks that honored and paid tribute to who have given their lives for ours and those who will be called upon to do so in the future.
This year’s Poppy girl 11-year-old Madelin brought a basket of wounded veteran’s handmade poppies for members of the community to participate in the traditional Memorial Day Placing of the Poppies ceremony. Herb Stettler read Flanders Field which explains the poppy tradition and Tim Wisnewski played Taps following a combined Rifle Salute. The benediction was presented by Mary Hall who also prayed for rain and the colors were retired by a combined Color Guard.