Emotionally expressing appreciation for those who gave their lives so that he could wear the uniform and serve a free nation today, Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Cossano read a poem he had heard written by a former sergeant major that stilled the community gathered for the Memorial Day service at Leif Hansen Memorial Park in Kenai. "The reason I get so emotional over it is because being over in Iraq, having lost friends, even just thinking about what everybody went through in WW II and Vietnam, they went through a lot more than we go through now, we owe them a lot, so it's a day that gets to me," said Staff Sgt. Cossano. The service has hosted by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #10046 under the direction of Post Commander Pat Hawkins. Guest speaker was Hal R. Blair Sr., Associate Director of the Alaska VA Healthcare Systems & Regional Office, director Blair reminded the community gathered that Memorial Day wasn't just about honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice having been killed in the line of duty, but those who have returned home with needs caused by their service, "It can be a conundrum with Americans. We can have a real short memory and shortly after a conflict is over people forget and the first thing they want to cut is the defense budget and funds that go to our veterans and it's very important that we continue to memorialize and honor our veterans for their sacrifices, and not only those killed, but those still living. We need to offer services that are commensurate with the scars of war," said Blair.
According to Blair, the VA has developed a wounded warrior hot line for any veteran having physical or mental problems resulting from their service and can call and receive counseling and be referred to a local healthcare provider regardless of where they reside in the country. "Over and above that, we continue to have outreach programs coordinated by professional social workers and mental health specialists to reach out to our men and women of Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans insuring that they know of the services available," added Blair. Regarding military service as a future for young men and women today Blair said, "In Anchorage we do an annual POW remembrance ceremony that focuses on POW's but is also about what it means to be a veteran and we visit middle and high schools and hold a ceremony to help reinforce in the minds of our young people that service to our country is necessary and not only necessary but a very special kind of service."
Tuesday following Memorial Day U.S. Congressman Don Young told a joint meeting of the Kenai and Soldotna Chambers of Commerce that, "We shouldn't just set one day a side in the year to remember and honor those who are responsible for everything we have, that is something that we should do everyday, while realizing how quickly what they fought and died for can be taken away."
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