Veterans were invited to participate in a special men's dance at a Veterans Day ceremony Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015 in Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall.

Veterans were invited to participate in a special men's dance at a Veterans Day ceremony Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015 in Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall.

‘We’re here because we remember’

Although traditionally a day set aside to thank veterans for their service, this Veterans Day one individual gave them something more — a mission.

A program Wednesday at Centennial Hall hosted by Post 25 Auke Bay American Legion featured speaker and chaplain Maj. Kirk Thorsteinson. During his address to the room of nearly 200 guests, he told stories of heroes who served while away from home, but he reminded the crowd that veterans today in Juneau are not done serving.

“Our nation celebrates us today for our service,” Thorsteinson said. “May they also celebrate us for what we continue to offer to those around us for the rest of our lives.”

Thorsteinson explained that while serving, men and women from different backgrounds from across the nation unite to fight for a singular cause. Their ability to come together in the face of diversities gives them the tools they need to lead others to similar success, he said.

Substance abuse, suicide and homelessness in the community were a few areas Thorsteinson said are often conflict-ridden because of politics or religion.

“I encourage all of us to look to our shared experience as veterans and our shared values which allow us to rise above our differences and join together to work with people we disagree with, people we may not like, in order to take care of veterans and the citizens of Juneau,” Thorsteinson said.

The audience, including members of the Alaska Legislature such as Sen. Dennis Egan and Rep. Cathy Muñoz, both of Juneau, also had those from other countries with shared appreciation for this country’s service men and women.

Benthe Mertl and her husband Chris stood in the back of the room as the U.S. Color Guard presented colors and as Sara Radke sang the Star Spangled Banner. Benthe was born in the Netherlands and her husband is from Canada, and neither is a veteran. But the day still holds strong importance for the couple and their four children.

“My parents were born in the Second World War in the Netherlands,” Benthe said. “These people may have liberated my parents. It’s an extremely important event for my kids as well; they need to learn that there are people who fight for us. I wouldn’t be here, they wouldn’t be here, if it wasn’t for those people fighting for us.”

Chris Mertl showed his Canadian side, wearing a bright poppy pinned to his jacket in honor of what is known as Remembrance Day in his country. He said although not everyone will agree on or support a war, everyone should support the troops.

American Legion Post 25 Commander Dick Hand said he was happy with additions to this year’s Veterans Day celebration at Centennial Hall, specifically the addition of the Capital Brass band and vocals by Radke. But he said 200 guests isn’t a large number considering Juneau’s population of about 32,000.

“Most people probably don’t know what this day’s observation is about,” Hand said. “But we’re here because we remember, and we believe in it.”

Declining participation on the civilian and the veterans’ side is a subject Thorsteinson spoke to after his address. A veteran himself, he admitted he has only attended city-wide veteran events a handful of times in years past. Now he’s calling on the younger generation to come forward as older veterans are lost and the need to care for the community continues.

“On Veterans Day, people often think of the heroic veteran who comes back and has all their limbs,” Thorsteinson said. “Really, some of our veterans are in the prison, some of our veterans are in the hospitals, some of our veterans are homeless.”

For interested veterans, monthly meetings for the American Legion Auke Bay Post 25 take place the second Tuesday of the month, and monthly meetings for Veterans of Foreign Wars takes place the second Wednesday of each month.

• Contact reporter Paula Ann Solis at 523-2272 or at paula.solis@juneauempire.com.

Dancers perform during a ceremony thanking veterans on Veterans Day, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015 at the Tlingit and Haida Central Council's Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall.

Dancers perform during a ceremony thanking veterans on Veterans Day, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015 at the Tlingit and Haida Central Council’s Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall.

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott speaks to a crowd as he offers remarks at the Alaska Native Veterans Veterans Day ceremony Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015 in Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall.

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott speaks to a crowd as he offers remarks at the Alaska Native Veterans Veterans Day ceremony Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015 in Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall.

More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Dec. 3

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Tuesday, Dec. 6

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Mountain reflections are seen from the Mendenhall Wetlands. (Courtesy Photo / Denise Carroll)
Wild Shots: Photos of Mother Nature in Alaska

Superb reader-submitted photos of wildlife, scenery and/or plant life.

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire 
At Wednesday evening’s special Assembly meeting, the Assembly appropriated nearly $4 million toward funding a 5.5% wage increase for all CBJ employees along with a 5% increase to the employer health contribution. According to City Manager Rorie Watt, it doesn’t necessarily fix a nearly two decade-long issue of employee retention concerns for the city.
City funds wage increase amid worker shortage

City Manager says raise doesn’t fix nearly two decade-long issue of employee retainment

People and dogs traverse the frozen surface Mendenhall Lake on Monday afternoon. Officials said going on to any part of Mendenhall Lake can open up serious risks for falling into the freezing waters. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Officials warn residents about the dangers of thin ice on Mendenhall Lake

Experts outline what to do in the situation that someone falls through ice

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Saturday, Dec. 3

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Molly Yazwinski holds a 3,000-year-old moose skull with antlers still attached, found in a river on Alaska’s North Slope. Her aunt, Pam Groves, steadies an inflatable canoe. (Courtesy Photo /Dan Mann)

 

2. A 14,000-year-old fragment of a moose antler, top left, rests on a sand bar of a northern river next to the bones of ice-age horses, caribou and muskoxen, as well as the horns of a steppe bison. Photo by Pam Groves.

 

3. Moose such as this one, photographed this year near Whitehorse in the Yukon, may have been present in Alaska as long as people have. Photo by Ned Rozell.
Alaska Science Forum: Ancient moose antlers hint of early arrival

When a great deal of Earth’s water was locked up within mountains… Continue reading

FILE - Freight train cars sit in a Norfolk Southern rail yard on Sept. 14, 2022, in Atlanta. The Biden administration is saying the U.S. economy would face a severe economic shock if senators don't pass legislation this week to avert a rail worker strike. The administration is delivering that message personally to Democratic senators in a closed-door session Thursday, Dec. 1.  (AP Photo / Danny Karnik)
Congress votes to avert rail strike amid dire warnings

President vows to quickly sign the bill.

Most Read