It’s been awhile since Kenai has had a Missing Man formation fly over to underscore the meaning of Memorial Day in a very visual and powerful way. Our country has been at war for a long time and resources have been stretched. But thanks to our local VFW, American Legion and AMVET organizations the true purpose of the Memorial Day 3 day weekend is being revived. “With all of the beginning of summer activities and sales and confusion with other holidays like Veterans Day it’s something many military people want to re-establish because we feel the true meaning is getting lost,” said retired Army National Guard Major Marty Hansen in an interview with the Dispatch. “Memorial Day is deeply rooted in history and its’ purpose is to honor those soldiers, men and women who have been killed in active service to the military and the freedoms of America from the Revolutionary War to this day. It’s not the 4th of July or Veterans Day and not for those who served, retired and then passed away, it’s to honor those who made it possible for us to celebrate Memorial Day and it should be celebrated, by laying down their lives that we can live free. It’s a wondrous thing that these soldiers have done and should never be forgotten,” says Hansen.
According to public officials more people turned out at the Avenue of Flags ceremony at Kenai Cemetery and the Memorial Day Service at Leif Hansen Memorial Park than any time in the event’s thirty some year history. In welcoming remarks Kenai Mayor Pat Porter thanked the Parks & Rec. department for the face lift that the park has received including a new fountain and veterans monument created by Scott Hamann and for the first time a tent and 100 chairs were provided for visitors. Part of the ceremony included an award presentation to 12-year-old Riana Boonstra, this year’s winner of the VFW essay contest for Alaska who also placed 20th in the National Essay competition. Boonstra then read her award winning essay to those assembled. In an interview with the Dispatch Riana said she was thinking about everyone who and fought and died so that we could be safe when she wrote her essay, “In the essay I also wrote about my concern for our national debt which I researched on my computer and realized that our debt had reached more than $16,000,000,000,000 trillion dollars, which is larger than the total economy of China, The United Kingdom and Australia combined. We need to do better in the future for our future,” said Boonstra.
“Riana represents the freedom that every soldier killed in service was willing to lay down their lives to preserve, it’s what they fought and died for. They’d be proud of her just like we all are today, congratulations Riana,” stated VFW Post # 10046 Commander Herb Stettler.