A color guard made up of members of the American Legion, AmVets, VFW and Young Marines makes its way along the Avenue of Flags in Kenai Cemetery during Memorial Day observances Monday.
Photos by Will Morrow
The central Kenai Peninsula took time Monday afternoon to remember the men and women who have given their lives in the service of their country during Memorial Day observances in Kenai.
“Most of us American warriors wear this uniform because we have faith that what we’re doing is right. God, family, country there are some things worth dying for,” said Sgt. 1st Class Will Schwenke, a guest speaker at the laying of wreaths ceremony at Leif Hansen Memorial Park.
“... We may not have the most perfect form of government yet ... but democracy and liberty for all is a good cause to die for.”
Madeline Dawn Edelen, 4, stands with Dottie Fischer, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 20 president, prior to the laying of wreaths ceremony during Memorial Day observances at Leif Hansen Memorial Park in Kenai.
Photo by Will Morrow
Schwenke, who returned last year from Iraq after being deployed with his Alaska National Guard unit, said the questions he is most frequently asked about his experience in Iraq are, “Are we making a difference? Is the sacrifice worth it?”
Schwenke answered those questions with a quote from a fellow guardsman, who cited people trying to cleanup their neighborhoods and the progress made by the Iraqi military. The communities being served began referring to the Alaska unit as the “seven stars,” because of the emblems painted on the Humvees representing the state.
“Not only do I think we made a difference, but we were an example that life can get better,” Schwenke quoted.
Following Schwenke’s remarks, Dave Caswell, Kenai Veterans Center director, shared a poem, “Face the Flag.” Barbara Brinkerhoff shared a prayer, and students from Lighthouse Christian School presented Jessica Lasky with a quilt in honor of her husband, Cpl. Mike Lasky, who was killed in Iraq last fall.
Wreaths were laid by members of each of the participating veterans organizations American Legion Post No. 20, VFW Post No. 1046, AmVets Post No. 4 and Disabled American Veterans Chapter 5.
Veterans, their families and members of the community were invited to take part in the wreath-laying ceremony, and many in attendance took a moment to lay a poppy blossom with the wreaths in memory of a loved one lost who had served in the military.
Yvonne Wellnitz, American Legion Post 20 commander and master or ceremonies for Monday’s observances, said even the veterans standing in front of the audience were touched by the community’s participation.
“It’s really moving. This is a really nice, solemn moment,” Wellnitz said.
The crowd that gathered for the service was large, and Tom Schanrock, commander of the local and state chapters of the Disabled American Veterans, said turnout for the event has increased over the past few years, and he was pleased with this year’s ceremony.
“This was one of the best I’ve ever been to. I think it’s getting better every year, and I’ve been doing this for 10 or 14 years,” Schanrock said.
The ceremony closed with a reading of “Flanders Field,” a rifle salute and taps.
Monday morning, the American Legion Post No. 2, in conjunction with AmVets and the VFW, hosted the Avenue of Flags at Kenai Cemetery.
For the ceremony, the gravel path through the cemetery was lined with American flags. The service started with a color guard procession through the cemetery and included a prayer, the reading of the poem “Flanders Field,” a rifle salute and the playing of taps.
Christina Johnson, whose late husband, Don Johnson, served in the Navy, attended the Avenue of Flags service with her close friend Roni Aldridge and Roni’s son Dartanian, who is Johnson’s godson. Johnson said it was a nice ceremony.
“And there were more people, too, this year, which is nice, and young people bringing their children,” she said.
Will Morrow can be reached at email@example.com.
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