Juneau residents came together at Evergreen Cemetery with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Taku Post 5559 on Monday morning.
“On the last Monday in May, we pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of the country,” said outgoing post commander Howard Colbert in his address to the assembled group. “That day is sacred to us.”
The Coast Guard made an appearance, with an honor guard presenting the colors for the ceremony.
“There’s not too many organizations that take it upon themselves to do this,” Colbert said. “Sacrifice is meaningless without recognition.”
While America is not currently actively at war, Colbert said, the threat is very real and will come again.
“If you look on the horizon, there’ll be another war. Young people will step up, Colbert said. “Talking about the war is difficult. If you weren’t there, you can’t quite understand.”
Colbert spoke about the value of carrying on stories of those who served, so their deeds would not go forgotten.
“The VFW feels it’s our obligation, our duty to display the message,” Colbert said. “I don’t think they teach history in schools anymore.”
Colbert also recognized the Harley Owner Group- Southeast Tongass Chapter, a motorcycle club that attended the ceremony and laid a wreath.
Another Memorial Day ceremony was also held Monday at Alaska Memorial Park in the Mendenhall Valley, where on a cloudless day dozens of Juneauites turned out for a wreath-laying ceremony.
The ceremony, put on by the American Legion Post 25, featured prayers from Lutheran Faith Church Rev. Aaron Spratt, who told attendees to remember the debt owed to soldiers who died in service of their country.
U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Darwin Jensen, commander of USCG Sector Juneau, gave a speech at the ceremony where he read two famous works about the human cost of war. The first was the poem In Flander’s Field, written by a Canadian doctor following the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915, where it’s estimated that more than 100,000 soldiers died in a month of fighting.
The second was President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, given in 1863 following the battle of the same name where more than 50,000 men died in a three-day battle.
“Let us do two things,” Jensen said. “The first is remember the fallen and the second is jealously defend the freedom that they gave us.”
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