Dick Hand, a Coast Guard veteran, stands at salute after laying a wreath at Alaskan Memorial Park in remembrance of Americans who gave their lives for the country on Memorial Day, May 31, 2021. (Dana Zigmund / Juneau Empire)

Remembering the fallen

Rain didn’t deter the crowd from remembering America’s lost service members

About 100 people gathered under rainy skies Monday morning at Alaskan Memorial Park to remember the fallen and mark Memorial Day, the federal holiday to honor the military’s dead.

Rear Adm. Nathan A. Moore, commander of the Coast Guard’s 17th District, served as the keynote speaker. After his remarks, veterans laid wreaths as “Taps” played in the background.

“We are here to honor our brothers and sisters in arms and those whose lives were cut short,” Moore told the solemn crowd.

Moore recounted a list of battles in which Americans made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. He asked those in attendance to remember the birthdays that went uncelebrated, the weddings that never took place and the sadness family members feel when their loved ones are missing from dinner tables.

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Moore shared the story of the only Coast Guard Medal of Honor recipient, Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro, who was killed in 1942 during the Guadalcanal Campaign of World War II while protecting a group of Marines.

He said the type of courage Munro displayed draws citizens to hallowed grounds to remember sacrifices made.

“You are what makes our nation strong in peace and in war,” Moore said. “Patriotism is contagious, and it can be inherited,” he said.

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Returning to normal

Monday’s ceremony was a reprisal of a tradition that organizers modified last year due to COVID-19.

“This is part of what we do,” said Dick Hand, a Coast Guard veteran and former Commander of the Auke Bay VFW Post, in an interview after the ceremony.

Hand said that in 2020, a few local veterans gathered to lay wreaths but canceled the ceremony out of concern for spreading the virus.

“If we don’t remember the fallen, who will?” he asked.

• Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

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