Memorial Day joins together Americans across the nation to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms. Area residents honored fallen soldiers at the Avenue of Flags ceremony at the Kenai Cemetery and the Memorial Day service at Leif Hansen Memorial Park on Monday.
Sunshine filled the late morning sky and American flags lining the path at the cemetery danced in the pine-scented breeze as Sons of American Legion members posted the Colors.
The ceremony has been held for about 30 years and carries on the traditions of the Posting and Retiring of the Colors, the rifle salute, taps and the reading of the “Flander’s Field.”
Bill Fields, Kenai resident for 50 years, walked with the color guard during the Avenue of Flags.
“I wouldn’t miss it,” Fields said, as he picked up spent rifle shells after the ceremony.
Fields, a member of American Legion Post 20, served in the military for more than two years during World War II. He was a part of the combat infantry and was stationed in Saipan and Okinawa.
About 40 people attended the ceremony wearing remembrance poppies given to them by the poppy girl, Madeline Edelen, 10.
“It feels good to help out being the poppy girl,” she said.
Brenda Trefren of Soldotna said she tries to come to the ceremony every year with her children to remember those who have served our country.
“We are very thankful of the men and women for their sacrifices,” she said.
Crystal Fite also brought her kids to the ceremony.
“We always show up to honor and remember,” she said.
“We come to celebrate Memorial Day … a day where we celebrate the soldiers because we love them,” said Fite’s 5-year-old son, Destin Trickle.
After the ceremony, Fite and her children walked through the cemetery looking at the headstones of soldiers who served in different wars.
Fite’s father, Vice Commander of the American Legion Post 20, Greg Fite, officiated both Avenue of Flags ceremony and the Memorial Day service put on by the American Legion, the VFW and AMVETS at the park.
He began the Memorial Day service by speaking about the importance of honoring soldiers who lost their lives defending our nation.
“Freedom is not free,” he said. “It is only available because the fallen have paid the ultimate price.”
The guest speaker, retired Col. Robert Doehl, special assistant for military and veteran affairs on Sen. Mark Begich’s staff, commended the way the community embraces and celebrates its veterans, and he reiterated the Vice Commander’s words about the sacrifice of those who serve in the U.S. military.
“(Service members) have given us democracy and freedom while we sleep safe in our beds at night,” Doehl said.
Doehl spoke after Riana Boonstra, a seventh grader at Aurora Borealis Charter School, read her speech that won 20th place at the national level for the Patriot Pen contest.
He praised the community for teaching young citizens like Boonstra and Madeline Micciche, who sang the Star Spangled Banner, to “stand up and participate” in events like the Memorial Day service.
Micciche, Sen. Peter Micciche’s daughter, said, “It’s really great to support people that have supported us for so many years and to honor them.”
Dave Allmon, an AMVET member, attended the service to honor fallen soldiers, including his brother, Ivan Rocoe, who lost his life serving in the Vietnam War.
“(I came) to honor our fallen veterans, … the ones who gave their lives so we could have ours,” Allmon said.
Carol Broussard from Nikiski came to the service with her children and grandchildren. She said her kids grew up going to Memorial Day services. Two of her sons, who weren’t able to come down from the Anchorage area to the service in Kenai, serve in the armed forces. William Broussard is in the Air National Guard and Ryan is in the Air Force. Both were deployed to Afghanistan a few years ago, and both made it back safely.
“If anything had happened (to my sons), we would like to know people remember,” Broussard said.
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