Hi, my name is Jacob Mann. I cover the Art Beat for the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman.
They say a friend in need is a friend indeed. The way I see it, looks like there’s plenty of people out there who can really use a friend, whether they realize it or not.
My job is a funny kind of profession. It takes me to all kinds of places at all times of the day. One day I’m waiting for a live streamed court hearing at 9 in the morning. Other days, I find myself as the reluctant center of attention in an AMVETS bar.
The Alaskan night weather was on par for this time of year when I walked into AMVETS Post 9 on Veterans Day. It was cold and dark, but there was a warm, yellow light peeking through the windows. The jubile din inside was filled with hearty laughs. The people inside shuffled around, grabbing snacks from the potluck table and picking out songs on the jukebox.
When I walked inside, it didn’t take long for the rosy cheeks old timers to notice I wasn’t the usual patron. As I talked to the post commander for material for my Veterans Day coverage, a couple of guys at the bar chimed in with some one liners.
It was clear they were in good spirits, and they loved bantering into the wee hours, surrounded by their fellow members and their families.
When I finished talking to the commander, I made my way to the two gentlemen who seemed so eager to interact with me. I knew they would have some fun chewing the fat, and I knew I would too.
I asked Mark Siefert and his slightly younger counterpart Dave Kenison if they wanted to “throw a couple of quotes in the paper” as I so often put it. The two veterans from different eras both had a field day. Kenison jokingly threatened to use his Marine Corps skills to hunt me down if their pretty faces didn’t make the headline. I laughed and said I would try to pull some strings for him.
I grew up in bars thanks to my colorful cast of family members, so I’ve always been able to keep up with playful jesting. In fact, I’ve noticed that just having fun with people through whimsical conversations like the ones you have at a bar can do wonders for the ol’ soul.
“It’s always nice to have a beer with another veteran on veterans day. That’s the way it should be,” Kenison told me at the bar.
The fact Siefert and Kenison were both going to be in the newspaper, especially in their minds as the frontrunner for the front page, instantly reminded them of Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show’s “Cover of the Rolling Stone.”
Admittingly, despite my huge appreciation for classic rock, the band’s name didn’t ring a bell. It didn’t help that I thought they said Rolling Stones, and I said, “oh yeah, I love the Stones.”
Siefert practically lept from his chair and ambled over to the jukebox. Not long after that, Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show’s song in question was blasting through the speakers. Nearly everyone in the bar sang along to the chorus, including Siefert. He cherrily replaced “Rolling Stone” with “Frontiersman” every time the chorus came up. He looked at me with the biggest grin all the while.
As I was leaving, Siefert said, “you’re not gonna forget us huh?” I smiled and said “No way.”
You may have heard that Frontline Mission had to switch to a drive thru only model for their annual Thanksgiving dinner at the Menard Center. They still plan to give out about the same amount of free Thanksgiving meals on the day of the holiday as they originally planned.
Frontline Mission program coordinator Matthew Sheets told me they were already planning to serve more meals than ever before due to the effects of the pandemic. He said that volunteerism, good deeds, and community donations are especially vital this holiday season.
“All the more, help is needed,” Sheets said. “Definitely a good time to give back to the community,” Sheets stated during our interview.
Whether you’re taking the time to talk to a local veteran or buying someone’s groceries in line at the store, now seems like a pretty good time to stop and help somebody out if you ask me. I’ll end with this, sometimes a little help can go a long way. Sometimes all you need to warm somebody up is a simple exchange of words. Indeed.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org