There were three Memorial Day ceremonies in Kenai and Soldotna this year, beginning with the Avenue of Flags at the Kenai Cemetery where Old Glory lined the pathway, followed by the traditional noon Memorial Day service at Lief Hanson Memorial Park and an afternoon ceremony at the Soldotna Veterans Memorial.
There were many community leaders and familiar faces at all three ceremonies as well as parents with youngsters in tow.
“It’s important for our children to know and appreciate those who died preserving our way of life. School is out and we’ll play and have family fun today but we’ll remember those who didn’t come home. We set an empty place at our picnic table, it’s for all of them who paid the ultimate sacrifice. My dad started the tradition and I’m passing it along, this year we’re placing a poppy on the plate,” explained a mom with three little ones in tow.
Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel presided over his first Memorial Day as mayor and said in an interview, “I take this holiday very seriously. The freedoms we have, sometimes we get caught up in life and take them for granted. So to take a day to think about how we came to be a free society and to appreciate those who gave their life for our freedoms is important in my mind. As mayor I guess I owe a special recognition to those who gave us a government where I could run for office and be elected by giving their lives on the field of battle. It’s never something to be taken for granted.”
State Senator Peter Micciche returned home from Juneau and was present at all three services along with his family.
“We think of Memorial Day as remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice years ago, starting with the Revolutionary War of ’76 and the great Civil and World Wars, Korea and Vietnam but sometimes forget that men and women are still sacrificing their lives ultimately for us in places like Afghanistan to protect our freedoms,” said Micciche.
Those who spoke briefly at the services all brought a common theme of not only those who died, but the families of those who lost their loved one and the price they paid and their history that was changed to preserve a nation that elects its leaders.
Ten-year-old Sophie Micciche would like to have her dad home more but told the Dispatch, “I’m happy that he’s doing it for the state, but I miss him when he’s gone. I absolutely am thinking about serving my country someday too.”
“It’s interesting to remember that some family trees ended through political service. It changes and has changed history forever, not just the individual that laid down their life, but their families back home and the children not born because of their loss. Our entire countries future has been altered by the loss of those individuals, not just positively but negatively through their loss and today is about that and remembering them,” said Micciche.
While VFW Post # 10046 Commander John Walker read a proclamation from Gov. Bill Walker there were no political speeches at any of the three ceremonies. Col. James Halliday, Alaska State Dental Surgeon for the Alaska Army National Guard, brought a brief key note address at the ceremony in Kenai. The community turned out at all three ceremonies to “Remember and never forget.”