Herb Stettler reads the poem “In Flanders Fields” as wreaths are laid during a Veterans Day ceremony Saturday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. (Photo by Dan Balmer/For the Clarion)

Herb Stettler reads the poem “In Flanders Fields” as wreaths are laid during a Veterans Day ceremony Saturday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. (Photo by Dan Balmer/For the Clarion)

‘Today we put veterans first’

  • By DAN BALMER
  • Saturday, November 11, 2017 8:17pm
  • News

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, about 150 people gathered at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex Saturday to pay tribute to American veterans.

The observance of Veterans Day goes back to Nov. 11, 1918 when an armistice between Germany and the Allied nations went into effect. The 99-year-old tradition continued Saturday in Soldotna with veterans, family and friends of veterans together for a ceremony organized by the Soldotna Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10046.

Dave Carey, VFW Auxiliary Gaming Officer, said Veterans Day is important to him because it’s a time to remember the sacrifices given within his family. His father was killed while on active duty as a Navy pilot in 1956, and his brother is a permanently disabled Vietnam War veteran.

“We want to make sure every veteran knows they are never forgotten,” he said. “We would not have this country without the willingness and commitment of all veterans.”

The ceremony started with the posting of the colors. As the flags from each branch of the U.S. Military were brought into the conference room, the audience stood and saluted the U.S. flag before the silence was broken for the Pledge of Allegiance and signing of the national anthem.

Sen. Peter Micciche, who flew in early Saturday from Juneau from a special legislative session, read a proclamation from Alaska Gov. Bill Walker that recognized veterans and their family for their service.

Guest speaker Marty Hanson, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and Alaska National Guard, spoke about how the memories of service felt like yesterday.

“As veterans, we all remember that call to duty to serve,” he said. “We all in one way or another did what was asked of us. When we find ourselves in the company of our fellow veterans, there’s an instant bond of friendship, a trust that normally takes a lifetime to build.”

Soldotna resident and VFW member Herb Stettler recited Lt. Col. John McCrae’s poem, “In Flanders Fields,” while members of the audience placed poppies on a symbolic gravestone. On the other side of the room, a round table with a white tablecloth sat empty as a symbol of Prisoners of War. The ceremony concluded with a 21-gun salute, playing of taps and a closing benediction.

Among those in attendance was 95-year-old Melvin “Mike” Logan of Soldotna, an Army Veteran who fought in World War II. Logan, a First Sergeant, was in Germany during the liberation of concentration camps, said Logan’s daughter, Sandra Sterling.

Sterling said her love of America came from her father, who valued his patriotic duty to serve.

The VFW has been raising funds for an “Iron Mike” five-foot tall bronze statue for Soldotna Creek Park. Currently, the organization has raised more than $28,000, or 58 percent of their $48,000 goal. Carey said if every adult on the peninsula donated $2, it would more than cover the project cost.

Carey said Stettler, who was born the same year as his father, approached him about the idea of the “Iron Mike” statue, which represents a soldier in full military gear. Getting the statue placed the park is a way to honor his father’s memory, Carey said.

“Our community has been so supportive of our veterans,” he said. “I believe this (statue) will be a major tourist attraction as well as a way to honor all veterans.”

American Legion Post 20 commander Greg Fite said continued support of veterans is vital and cited that 22 veterans commit suicide every day.

“As a nation we should continue to serve our veterans as well as they have served us,” he said. “We need to remember that war is not a mere history lesson. To them the battles continue even after the firing stops. … Veterans put us first so today we put veterans first.”

Melvin “Mike” Logan, 95, stands for the presentation of colors during a Veterans Day ceremony at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex Saturday. Logan was a First Sergeant in the U.S. Army during World War II and was in Germany during the liberation of concentration camps. (Photo by Dan Balmer/For the Clarion)

Melvin “Mike” Logan, 95, stands for the presentation of colors during a Veterans Day ceremony at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex Saturday. Logan was a First Sergeant in the U.S. Army during World War II and was in Germany during the liberation of concentration camps. (Photo by Dan Balmer/For the Clarion)

Lee Miller of Soldotna, a U.S. Navy Veteran, plays taps following a rifle salute during a Veterans Day ceremony Saturday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. (Photo by Dan Balmer/For the Clarion)

Lee Miller of Soldotna, a U.S. Navy Veteran, plays taps following a rifle salute during a Veterans Day ceremony Saturday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. (Photo by Dan Balmer/For the Clarion)

More in News

Raymond Bradbury preserves his salmon while dipnetting in the mouth of the Kenai River on Saturday, July 10, 2021. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai River dipnetting closed; Kasilof to close Sunday

The Kasilof River dipnet fishery is reportedly slow, but fish are being caught

Silver salmon hang in the Seward Boat Harbor during the 2018 Seward Silver Salmon Derby. (Photo courtesy of Seward Chamber of Commerce)
Seward Silver Salmon derby runs Aug. 13-21

Last year’s derby featured 1,800 contestants competing across eight days

Rayna Reynolds tends to her cow at the 4-H Agriculture Expo in Soldotna, Alaska on Aug. 5, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Animals take the stage at 4-H expo

Contestants were judged on the quality of the animal or showmanship of the handler

Emily Matthews and Andy Kowalczyk pose outside the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies headquarters on Friday, July 29, 2022, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Charlie Menke/Homer News)
AmeriCorps volunteers aid Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies

The 10-month commitment pushed them outside of comfort zones

People gather in Ninilchik, Alaska, on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, for Salmonfest, an annual event that raises awareness about salmon-related causes. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
All about the salmon

Fish, love and music return to Ninilchik

Alaska State Veterinarian Dr. Bob Gerlach gives a presentation on Avian Influenza Virus at the 4-H Agriculture Expo in Soldotna, Alaska, on Aug. 5, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
State looks to outreach, education amid bird flu outbreak

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza is spreading in Alaska

Fencing surrounds the 4th Avenue Theatre in Anchorage, Alaska, on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022. Demolition will begin in August 2022 on the once-opulent downtown Anchorage movie theater designed by the architect of Hollywood’s famed Pantages Theatre. The 4th Avenue Theatre with nearly 1,000 seats opened in 1947, and it withstood the second most powerful earthquake ever recorded. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Efforts fail to save historic Anchorage theater from demolition

Anchorage entrepreneur Austin “Cap” Lathrop opened the 4th Avenue Theatre, with nearly 1,000 seats, on May 31, 1947

Mimi Israelah, center, cheers for Donald Trump inside the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage, Alaska, during a rally Saturday July 9, 2022. Two Anchorage police officers violated department policy during a traffic stop last month when Israelah, in town for a rally by former President Donald Trump showed a “white privilege card” instead of a driver’s license and was not ticketed. (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP, File)
Alaska officers violated policy in ‘white privilege’ stop

The top of the novelty card reads: “White Privilege Card Trumps Everything.”

Ashlyn O’Hara / Peninsula Clarion file 
Alaska LNG Project Manager Brad Chastain presents information about the project during a luncheon at the Kenai Chamber Commerce and Visitor Center on July 6.
Local leaders voice support for LNG project

Local municipalities are making their support for the Alaska LNG Project known

Most Read