PUBLISHED: 6:01 PM on Wednesday, November 9, 2005
Veterans to be honored at Centennial Hall event

Archive photo
  Veterans Day ceremonies honoring Juneau's veterans in 2004.
On the 11th month, on the 11th day, at the 11th hour, veterans past and present will be honored at Juneau's Centennial Hall. On Veterans Day, roughly 300 people are expected to attend the event in Juneau to honor and thank all of the men and women who have served in the nation's military.

"Veterans Day is a time for all Americans, military or not, to remember and pay tribute to those veterans who have put their lives on the line for this country," said John E. Wilkins, Jr., director of services, Disabled American Veterans Department of Alaska. "Each American needs to say thank you to those people who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice."

A large number of veterans will be on hand at the ceremony, as will others who want to express their appreciation. During this year's event, coordinated by Auke Bay Post 25 American Legion, the guest speaker will be Maj. Simon Brown of the Alaska Army National Guard. The Coast Guard Color Guard will present colors, and entertainment will be provided by the Juneau Youth Choir, conducted by Missouri Smyth.

"It is especially important to come together now to pay our respects for the job our soldiers have done throughout the years, as we are losing more veterans of World War II and Korea every day," said Jim Pisa, commander of Auke Bay Post 25 American Legion. "Each day, an average of 1,500 World War II veterans die, and the Korean War vets are not far behind."

"Believe it or not, Vietnam War veterans are now in their late 50s and 60s," added Pisa, who will be master of ceremonies at the event. "And it's also important to pay tribute to our younger soldiers-the men and women serving in Iraq and throughout the world."

Gerald J. Dorsher, Commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Taku Post 5559, agreed.

"It's important to observe and support our troops in actions all over the world today," he said, "as well as to honor former veterans."

In addition to Veterans Day, military personnel also are recognized on Memorial Day, though there is a difference in the focus of each holiday, according to Tim Armstrong. Armstrong serves as the service officer for Auke Bay Post 25 American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars Taku Post 5559, and is also the vice-commander of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter.

"The difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day is that Veterans Day is a day to honor those who have survived," explained Armstrong, who is a life member of the Order of the Purple Heart. "We focus on the living, and give reverence to the dead. On Memorial Day, our focus is on remembering those who gave their lives for our country-who died to preserve our freedom."

"In this day and age, it is only fitting that all of their sacrifices be recognized," he added. "That we say thank you to those individuals and families who sacrificed so much without even knowing who they were doing it for. It's nice on paper to say that you have these rights and these liberties, but there are people everyday who put their lives on the line to preserve those rights for you."

In addition to the Veterans Day observance, local veterans' organizations band together to help their members get the recognition, and the rewards, they have earned.

"We do what we've always done, which is help veterans get medical, education and GI loan benefits, among other things," Armstrong said. "Sometimes things fall through the cracks and veterans don't get the benefits that they were promised way back when. So we assist veterans and their families in getting through the red tape."

On Nov. 11, however, there will be no red tape or other barriers to stop veterans from getting the nation's appreciation.

"It's good to remember who we are, where we are, what we have, and who to say thanks to," Armstrong said. "I hope people take a moment to appreciate their freedom, and to say thank you for what they've got."