Thanksgiving still may be a week away, but the central Kenai Peninsula's show of support last weekend for its soldiers and veterans was no less a thanksgiving in itself.
Between the homecoming planned by area communities and the annual ceremony commemorating Veterans Day, our friends and neighbors made a powerful showing to let our servicemen and women know how much they are appreciated for their time spent away from home defending our country.
Saturday's outpouring of community support more than 500 strong and standing room only at the Kenai National Guard Armory humbled the soldiers who were there to be honored.
These troops Martin Hanson, Paul Kerr, Hal Taylor, Paul Grimsley, Albert Burns, Scott Alwin, Aaron Byrd, Eric Einerson, Charles Garrison, Ryan Gillis, Louis Grimaldi, Raymond Mixsooke, Arthur Moonin, Joshua Vanderzon, David Ahlberg, Malcohm Brown, David Nussbaum, Christopher Minatra, Wilson House, Nicholas Yoncher and Cody Kelso have earned every bit of the respect we give them.
It's difficult to imagine the sacrifices made by these people who have chosen to put their lives on the line at the risk of paying the ultimate price for protecting our freedom. While we stay behind and go about our busy lives, they face danger, fear and, worse yet, the unknown.
Also hard to imagine are the sacrifices made by those left behind to carry on in their absence. These families give so much of themselves to make this happen. There is so much strength in them all.
"You're incredible. With your love and support they were able to do what we asked them to do," Sen. Lisa Murkowski told them Saturday.
Thomas Katkus, assistant adjutant general-Army for the Alaska National Guard, echoed her sentiments, saying those who stayed behind "faced challenges and obstacles they had not faced before," but they did it because they, like the soldiers who served, they "knew they had a mission to accomplish, and they did a great job."
Likewise on Sunday, recognition was given to those who have served and those who stand behind them.
Maj. Martin Hanson, an Alaska National Guardsman who recently returned from Kuwait, asked each soldier to look within their hearts and realize how much they have contributed to our country.
"We are all heroes," he told them.
He also acknowledged the importance of the support received from peninsula residents.
"Allow yourself to appreciate what you have done as much as we do," he said. "Every soldier knows that being in two places at once makes things that much tougher."
We are fortunate to live in a community where support for those who have served for us is strong and those who have served are revered. Last weekend's events proved both.
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