Flag pole goes in with a bang

Family, friends honor Kasilof man for service

Posted: Monday, November 25, 2002


High above the banks of the Kasilof River Saturday, four shots erupted into the silence of a late fall afternoon. If he hadn't been halfway across the world, Cameron Wenzel would have loved it.

Cameron, a Kasilof native, is a member of the U.S. Air Force's 5th Explosives Ordnance Disposal Flight, currently stationed somewhere in the Middle East. He's an expert in explosives, something most people would consider a bit dangerous. But Cameron isn't the type to scare easily.

Don't think so? Ask his father, Bob.

"He sent me this in his last letter," Bob said, holding up a grenade pin Cameron sent home. "He said, 'Don't worry, Dad, I'm making you a necklace.'"

Bob returned the pin to its resting place next to Cameron's picture, prominently displayed in the Wenzel's Kasilof living room atop Familiar's cage. Familiar? That's Cameron's boa constrictor.

"I've been taking care of it for him for the last five years," Bob said, pointing to the 10-foot snake.

Bob's been in charge of Familiar since Cameron left for the Air Force after graduating from Soldotna High School in 1998. Since then, Cameron has been stationed in Minot, N.D., as part of an elite unit of the Air Force bomb squad. His current mission has him hunting terrorists in one of the most hostile environments in the world.

Bob -- who also was an explosives expert in the armed forces -- said Saturday that Cameron's choice of occupation is no surprise to him.

"Ever since he was a boy, he loved the bang. He took to it even better than I did," he said. "When he used to see us blowing stumps up, he loved it."

To recognize Cameron's service, community members recently pulled together to erect a large flag pole at his father's home. The flag pole idea was hatched by Cameron's friend Jimmy Hansen, who works as an electrician for Air Tek Inc. in Soldotna.

He thought it would be nice to do something for Cameron, so he offered to help in any way he could in securing a flag pole. From there, things just sort of exploded.

The Department of Transporta-tion and Public Facilities donated the pole, and several area businesses pitched in for the labor. With help from an appreciative community, it didn't take long to get the pole up.

Bob said the flag-raising is one of the things that make living in a place like Kasilof so special.

"It just makes me so proud to be a part of this community," he said.

Once the pole was up, a ceremony was needed to properly dedicate it. That's where the gunfire came in. Local members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars showed up for a ceremony dedicating the pole in Cameron's honor, complete with color guard and a four-gun salute.

Following the ceremony, Bob said the pole is meant to honor not just his son, but all those who work to protect the country from danger.

"It's not just Cameron, it's other people in the service. I don't think of it as just mine," he said, beaming proudly as the American flag waved overhead.

"It's everybody's."

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