Special events year round honor Vets on the Kenai

Posted: Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November 11th is Veterans Day and locally there will be a ceremony at the Soldotna Sports Center put on by the VFW Post #10046, Am Vets, and American Legion. According to Herb Stettler of the VFW, National Guard Sgt. Matheson is scheduled to be the keynote speaker. The public is invited to attend the event. In keeping with tradition, the ceremony will commence at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. It marks the day which armistice or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect back on November 11, 1918, in what is generally regarded as the end of "the war to end all wars."

Outdoor Recreational & Heritage Fund members on a bear hunt at Tyonek Lodge earlier this fall.

While the nation pauses to appreciate all those who have, and those who continue to serve in our military on November 11th , here in Alaska's Playground, we are reminded of efforts that are made year round to honor and help heal the hearts and minds our returning veterans in tangible ways. Organizations such as the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) and the Outdoor Recreation and Heritage Fund (ORHF) have targeted the Kenai Peninsula for some of their activities. "Sports and outdoor recreation play an enormous role in helping our seriously wounded veterans help themselves. Sports are life-saving and quality-of-life changing. You just need to see the faces of these guys and gals, many of whom had lost the will to live when they were injured, to understand the impact sports have. Thanks to ORHF and Paralyzed Veterans of America's world-class sports program, these folks go from hospital beds to taking their first steps back to independence. Whether it's through trap shooting, shooting hoops, or shooting bears in Tyonek," said Joe Fox Sr. (US Marine Corps, Ret.) chairman of the ORHF. Fox' interview with the Dispatch was held earlier this fall during a PVA banquet held at the Challenger Learning Center. Locally, thanks to the work of volunteers such as Dan McDowell, known by many as the Last Frontiersmen, with his handicapped accessible river boat and the efforts of Lee and Joe Halstead, several successful PVA hunts and fishing trips were held this spring and summer. "It's all worthwhile when you see these soldiers who have been separated from their units due to injuries, get out and start making new friends that are in similar situations and realizing they can get out and get around and do exciting things like catch a salmon or shoot a bear, and that there are people here that care about them," explained Lee Halstead who accompanied the PVA's on their hunt.

According to Bill Lawson, U.S. Army Ret. Vietnam Vet, and president-elect of the PVA, the ORHF plans to bring more soldiers to Alaska in the future. "This was my first experience coming up here, and I can tell you I'll be coming back on my own as well. When I was wounded and down in the dumps thinking I just didn't have a life left, it was the PVA guys that came before me who picked me up, dusted my bootstraps off and showed me how to get back to doing it. So now my commitment through our organization is to carry that message on to the next generation of wounded veterans, and that's the message I'll be carrying back to Washington D.C. when I become PVA president," said Lawson. PVA depends on private contributions and does not receive VA funding. To learn more about supporting PVA Alaskan hunting and fishing trips log on to www.pva.org.

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