Community members gathered at Leif Hansen Memorial Park in Kenai on Thursday to honor veterans near and far.
Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel was in attendance, and spoke reflected on the sacrifices those in the armed forces have made for their country.
“It’s so important that we honor our vets,” Gabriel said to a crowd of about 35. “I’m not a veteran but I think … current and former service members… have made us the greatest nation on earth.”
The mayor emphasized that U.S. veterans have advocated for ways to support all citizens.
“We’re not a tyrannical country, we try to find the best … solutions that benefit all,” Gabriel said.
American Legion Post 20 Commander David Segura spoke about what veterans undergo both while they’re in the service and after they return home.
“A bad day at work does not mean a blown account or lost business,” he said. “It can mean watching a best friend die, losing a limb or being immersed in collateral suffering that is synonymous with war.”
Veterans share a bond, Segura said, and they need the community’s support.
“We in the American Legion welcome and encourage conversations such as these among veterans,” he said. “We remind them that their well-being matters, especially to us.”
Segura said it’s important to provide resources to veterans who are struggling with mental health.
“We offer our friendship and our assistance,” he said. “Through that friendship, the American Legion has made suicide prevention among veterans … top priority.”
The first step, Segura said, is changing the perception of mental well-being.
“We must remove all stigmas associated with asking for help or being diagnosed with PTSD, depression, or any condition that could lead one to take his own life,” he said. “All of us here can help.”
Chaplain Mike Meredith led the invocations and the Honor Guard performed a firearm salute.