Each day on the Kenai Peninsula, countless community members young and old quietly go about the business of helping honor America. On Sept. 11, 2003, their community honored them with the Twin Cities Mayor's Salute to Community Service at the Soldotna Sports Center.
Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey came up with the idea to co-host the event with Kenai's Mayor John Williams. Carey said Thursday that he thought the time was right to honor those who serve.
"This is a day of remembrance and rededication," he said.
He said that in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, he's come to have a greater appreciation for the people who go out of their way to uphold the values of democracy and patriotism.
"America will always be one nation under God as long as we realize we teach our children the democratic values of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights," Carey said.
Honored Thursday were a cross section of community members with one important thing in common: service.
Among the groups presented with citations from the two cities were active duty military personnel, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the Arctic Young Marines and local VFW and American Legion color guards and their auxiliary members.
Williams said he thought the day was a perfect opportunity to memorialize the victims of the terror attacks, while thanking the people who continue to make America strong.
"We're very, very thankful we live in a place like America. There is no place like America, we all know that," he said.
The ceremony featured music by the Skyview High School Swing Choir, which sang the national anthem and "America the Beau-tiful," as well as the Air Force Band of the Pacific, which provided patriotic music throughout the event.
One of the most rousing parts of the ceremony came when the band struck up each of the theme songs for the five branches of the military. One by one, veterans and active duty members of the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard stood as their respective songs were played.
As the crowd of roughly 250 people cheered their service to the nation, the veterans stood proudly smiling. Most stood, some gestured playfully at their counterpart service members old rivalries made fresh by memories brought on by the ceremony.
After the ceremony, Veterans of Foreign Wars member Herb Stettler said he was extremely pleased to see the service members recognized by the community.
"We really felt honored to have this much recognition from the community," he said.
In addition to current and former service personnel, some of tomorrow's heroes also were honored for the work they do in the community, from helping at community functions to organizing fund-raising events.
Soldotna High School sophomore Seth Payfer is a member of the Arctic Young Marines. He said after the ceremony that the recognition was appreciated, but that service really isn't about getting praise. For him, it's about working hard and taking a no-nonsense attitude toward doing the right thing.
"You have to study hard, basically do what you're told and not slack off," he said. "But it's nice to get the recognition, because we do a lot of community service."
Following the ceremony, Carey said he was proud to have helped honor all the hardworking individuals like Payfer who quietly work to make the community a better place to live.
"My major goal was for the young people to see the older people, so the young people can see what they can aspire to," he said. "I just really appreciate all the work they all do."
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