Vets, families reflect

Posted: Monday, November 12, 2001

Just as Americans have for 82 years, citizens paused during the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to remember and honor the sacrifices of the men and women who've served in our military.

Veterans Day in the central Kenai Peninsula began at Leif Hansen Memorial Park with a ceremony organized by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 10046 and concluded with open houses at the VFW post in Soldotna, American Legion Post No. 20 in Kenai and AmVets Post No. 4 in Soldotna.

"We recognize those who served in the military and those who gave their lives for the freedom Americans enjoy," said American Legion Commander Bob Harrison. "We memorialize them and give them thanks."

Harrison said there was more than usual interest in the ceremony Sunday, despite the chilly weather, because the country is at war.

"It does bring out recognition by the citizens," he said. "Any time we have some program like Afghanistan going on, the people recognize and honor those in the military, and that's only right."

Legion member Tracy Meyers said the veterans who died in the past year also were remembered.

"There's more and more of them every year, with the World War II veterans growing older," he said.

Meyers pointed out that the Legion and the other veterans organizations are there to help any family who may have loved ones in the military now.

Alvin Diaz is the immediate past commander of Post 20 and is first vice president of the American Legion Western District.

"The way I look at it, as a veteran, we sacrificed to allow everyone to live as they have, and continue to do," he said.

He said the war in Afghanistan has bolstered veteran participation in the Legion and other organizations.

"Before Sept. 11, it was hard to get members," he said. "Now they're active again. People realize we're in a big time war. Too bad something like that had to happen to help pull us together."

"I think everyone is more patriotic and more caring now," said Diaz's daughter, 17-year-old Ashley Soares, the American Legion Western District Junior Auxiliary president.

"Veterans Day is a time to remember all who have served and died while helping to save our country," she said.

Another young person at the American Legion Hall, 15-year-old Aryon Byrd, a Young Marine private first class, agreed, and said he looks forward to a career in the military.

"I hope I can go. I would love to serve my country."

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