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Mat-Su Veterans Wall of Honor Veterans Day Ceremony draws packed and patriotic crowd

WASILLA — A large crowd of dedicated Alaskans turned out in force at the Mat-Su Veterans Walls of Honor for the annual Veterans Day Ceremony in spite of the heavy snowfall to honor Alaskan military veterans and all those who served their country.

“I tell ya, Veterans Day always gives us the bad weather it seems like, but these are dedicated people that come out here to show their respect and honor,” Mat-Su Veterans Wall of Honor Foundation Board President JR Hackett said. “We’ve got a strong veteran appreciation here in the state, right here in the Valley especially.”

Special guest speakers such as Gov. Mike Dunleavy, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, and Wasilla Mayor Glenda Ledford shared messages of support and gratitude for countless sacrifices made by the men and women of the armed forces throughout history.

“The military life is built around sacrifice and commitment to our nation, and for one day, we stand united in respect for you, our veterans. We owe you more than we can ever repay,” Ledford said. “We thank you today and every day for our safety, for our freedom, and for what you endured so our ideals may live on.”

The Alaska Combat Vets hosted this year’s ceremony with the support of local veteran organizations. Each group from the community is represented in the Wall Foundation board of directors.

AK Combat Vets Chaplain Charles Hermans led a group prayer in honor of veterans of all branches of the military.

“It’s our honor to do this for our brothers, our sisters, and for all of you,” Hermans said.

The Veterans Wall has had a long and eventful journey to its location in front of the Wasilla Police Department. It was dedicated for the first time in November of 1992, according to Hackett.

The Veterans Wall had stood near the hospital prior to being moved in 2018 and was the subject of a vote by the Mat-Su Borough Assembly in 2018 to move the wall.

“It’s been awesome,” Hackett said.

According to Hackett, there are several current projects centered around the Veterans Wall, in development, including an upgrade to the pavilion pillars and the sound system. During the ceremony, he revealed the latest addition to the grounds, a war dog statue dedicated to Valley Veteran Leo Kaye and Hazel Schwulst.

“After the Veterans Wall was dedicated [in 1992], Leo set in motion the gathering of money to finance and design a memorial to honor all the dogs that served in U.S. conflicts and in peacetime and were responsible for saving thousands of lives,” Hackett said.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

Frontline Mission returning to in-person Thanksgiving community dinner

WASILLA — It’s that time of year again. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and Frontline Mission staff and volunteers are eagerly preparing for the return to an in-person community dinner this holiday season.

“It really builds the community,” Frontline Mission Managing Director Matthew Sheets said.

Frontline Mission’s Thanksgiving dinner event will take place at its usual location at the Menard Sports Center from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 25, Thanksgiving Day.

Last year, the entire experience was streamlined into a socially distanced drive-thru model due to the pandemic. Sheets said this year is going to be just as safe with mitigation efforts in place, but it will be even more exciting now that the public can sit down and enjoy meals together again.

Sheets said there’s a huge need for this to countless citizens of the Mat-Su community, not just for the food itself. More importantly, it’s about the social component and the sense of belonging during the holidays.

“Unfortunately, not everyone in the Mat-Su Valley will have a Thanksgiving dinner to look forward to, or family to share it with, not even a warm safe dwelling,” Sheets said. “We don’t want to turn anyone away. That’s what Frontline Mission is all about.”

Thanks to community partners, event sponsors, and donations from groups and individuals, Frontline Mission offers free Thanksgiving meals with all the classic fixings each year. Sheets said they anticipate serving over meals to the hungry, hurting, and homeless of the Mat-Su Valley.

Sheets said they prepare for this event all year and they’re expecting to utilize over 300 volunteers. He noted that there are still slots available to volunteer and they could always use additional financial support from the community to pay for this event and prepare for the rest of the holiday season.

“This is a big meal and a big endeavor,” Sheets said.

Sheets said they’re grateful for a $15,000 grant from Mat-Su Health Foundation that will support their Thanksgiving and Christmas food box program.

“It’s a really fun time of year for Frontline,” Sheets said.

Each week, Frontline offers food, clothing, showers, and other services to the community each week at their main campus located at 2001 East Palmer-Wasilla Highway, near Fred Meyer and Wasilla Lake.

“Frontline Mission is a connecting place between the less fortunate and compassionate people of the community. When people connect with one another change happens,”

For more information about Frontline Mission, call 907-357-8600 or visit frontlinemission.org.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com