Speakers at this year's Memorial Day Services held in Kenai wanted their audience to remember what the holiday's true meaning was.
Some 80 to 100 people attended the service, held Monday afternoon in Leif Hansen Memorial Park.
The day was started with the posting of "Avenue of Flags" in the Kenai City cemetery.
This year Kenai American Legion Post No. 20 hosted the events, with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 10046 and American Veterans Post No. 4 helping to perform the duties of the color guard, rifle salute and conduct ceremonies.
Speakers reminded their audience that while Memorial Day has taken on many different meanings, it still holds one purpose.
In an emotional speech, Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Cossano, dressed in fatigues, recalled watching an infomercial recently that made him realize the country was perhaps out of touch with why Memorial Day exists.
"We forget that Memorial Day is a day to honor the more than one million Americans who have given their lives since the first soldiers fought for our independence, and the many more still fighting today," Cossano said. "Instead, Memorial Day has become a celebration with barbecues, beach getaways and sales."
Cossano served in Iraq in Sadr City during a particularly tumultuous time from 2004 to 2005. He now works locally as a recruiter.
"This is not to say that families should not enjoy the weekend or cook outs if the weather is nice. In fact, Memorial Day is a day for Americans to come together with their history and values," he said.
Those words were echoed often in the park.
It's not just another day off," said Jim Herrick, commander of the Legion. "So many people don't realize what Memorial Day is all about."
Norm Mortensen, commander of Amvets, also made sure to thank those in attendance.
"Without the expression of your gratitude, the sacrifice of these men and women loses all value," he said.
Pat Hawkins, commander of the VFW, also reminded the audience that war leaves deep and long lasting scars.
"We can't forget that once the guns are silenced and the battlefields are empty, there is an aftermath to war," he said.
Dante Petri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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