Community members honored local residents who have served in the U.S. military during an annual Veterans Day celebration at the Dillingham High School.
Students and community members filled the Dillingham high school auditorium. They were gathering to recognize the residents who have served in the United States military. City Manager Tod Larson was among the 16 veterans seated in front of a podium. He made the opening remarks.
“I’m very proud to be a member of this population of veterans in Alaska," Larson said. "Alaskans have a long history of service to the country’s defense and we appreciate you taking the time to recognize an important date. We all chose to protect our country and did so without regret.”
Larson pointed out that 13.1% of Alaska’s population are veterans – double the national rate. Of that number, 13.7% are women, compared to 9.4% nationally. The state also has the highest percentage of Alaska Native and Native American veterans in the country, at 7.1%. (Of course, the number of Native veterans is higher in other states, like California, because they have larger populations.)
Each of the veterans had a red poppy pinned to their lapels. Those poppies are symbols from a poem, “In Flanders Fields,” written by John McCrae during World War I. Student council vice president Matthew Robinson explained that the poppies grew over the graves of soldiers who had died. As Robinson read the poem, he was nervous, but his voice didn’t quiver.
"In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
"We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
"Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields."
The band performed the “United States Armed Forces Medley.” The medley strings together marches from all military branches. Veterans were asked to stand when their march was played.
Pete Kapotak is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006 and 2007.
“It’s always touching for me. Remembering the guys I served with and families, you know that sacrifice,” he said.
At the end of the ceremony, sophomore Zach Kolbe played the Armistice Day Recognition of Taps. The veterans stood, their hands over their hearts.
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