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Memorial Day a success but education needed

Posted: Tuesday, May 29, 2001

Those who died for our country were recognized on Memorial Day at the Kenai Cemetery and Leif Hansen Memorial Park. All in attendance mourned those who died serving their country in the armed forces.

Simultaneously, many regretted how the purpose of Memorial Day has become lost to the majority of the younger generations. A scant 50 people attended the Avenue of the Flags at the cemetery, but several hundred people attended the Laying of the Wreaths at the Leif Hansen Memorial Park.

"Freedom is not free," was the theme of day.

"Gone but not forgotten," Gert Frostad said while she was caring for side-by-side graves with her granddaughter Jamie Edwards.

One grave was Frostad's father, Victor Segura, a Coast Guard World War II veteran; the other was Edward's grandfather, John J. Coveyou, a veteran of World War I who served in both the Air Force and the Navy.

"It is sad that they don't have a Memorial Day parade," Frostad said as she and her granddaughter put wood chips and plants on the graves.

 

Gert Frostad tends to the grave of her father, Victor Segura, with the help of her granddaughter Jamie Edwards on Memorial Day at the Kenai Cemetery

By JAY BARRET, Staff

While they tended to the graves, an American Legion Post No. 20 Color Guard prepared to march down the Avenue of Flags bordering the path into the cemetery.

The brief ceremony was attended by veterans of World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War and Panama.

Merle D. Meisinger, an Air Force veteran of Korea, said this was one special day, but hard to describe.

"This is a day to honor the men and women and those who are still prisoners who served to keep America free," he said.

Meisinger also made a statement echoed by all of the veterans.

"This generation has lost the education of what this day means," he said.

Looking at those gathered, he said, "We have to get to the youth. Most of the young people here are Legion and Auxiliary kids."

Standing next to him was Earl Jones, a World War II Navy veteran, whose letter to the Clarion was printed last week urging people to remember those who served.

Jones's letter may have had some clout since attendance was up this year. Or it could have been it was a sunny day as Jones wrote, mentioning that attendance over the years has been especially poor on rainy days.

Referring to the membership of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Jones said the younger veterans don't join the organizations, and the old ones are dying off.

"I can't physically carry the flag at these events anymore," he said.

The gathering stood saluting the American flag waving strongly in the wind as the honor guard walked the short length of the road. Voices of command were easily heard, "Present arms." A reverent quiet hung in the air.

Between the march of the flags, the three-gun salute and a bugle playing taps, words were spoken of the self-sacrifice of leaving families -- some never to return. A poem titled "The Last Inspection" was read speaking of a soldier's modest request to God.

Fred Hudson, one of the younger men and an army veteran of the Gulf War and Panama, was there to honor his grandfather and uncle. Hudson's grandfather served in World War II. His uncle, who passed away last year, "served in Vietnam and came home to spit," he said.

The Laying of the Wreaths Ceremony that followed at Leif Hansen Memorial Park was much better attended. The area was filled with flags flowing full. The Boy and Girl Scouts, Young Marines, American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars all held flags of our nation, states and their organizations.

Bob Harrison, post commander, and Ace Falgout, chaplain, both of American Legion Post No. 20, said educational programs are in place. As to the younger generation's ignorance of Memorial Day,

"It's our fault," Harrison said.

The VFW presents Loyalty Day Programs in the schools. At Kalifornsky Beach, Redoubt, Tustumena, Sterling and Cook Inlet elementary schools, the VFW gives presentations on loyalty and how to fold the flag. Herb Stettler, service officer of both the VFW and the American Legion, said the kids ask great questions.

The American Legion gives presentations to Nikiski, North Star and Sears elementary schools.

"This year on Veterans Day we got about 10 fellas together who are vets of World War II and they talked to the kids," Stettler said. "At Skyview High School some Vietnam veterans addressed a class of 10th-grade students who were studying the war. The fellas said the kids asked good questions."

A God and Country Show will be given July 1 at Kenai Central High School.

"Veterans will be on the stage, the Young Marines and Boy and Girl Scouts will be there, and Soldotna pastor Jim Duncan," Stettler said.

With excellent timing, a squadron of Air Force jets from Elmendorf Air Force Base flew over at the end of the speeches.

The laying of the wreaths was presented, and then the audience at Leif Hansen Memorial Park was asked to participate in the placing of the poppies. Many saluted after placing their poppy on the wreath. Balloons were released in honor of the prisoners of war and the missing in action.



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