WASILLA — Crowds assembled at the new Veterans Wall of Honor in Wasilla were happy to hear about the future of the project, which will feature a pavilion. Those who attended braved the harsh early-winter weather in Wasilla of freezing rain and gusting winds. Two tarps were set up and tied down to statues so that they would not blow away. For maybe the first time since the decision to sell the piece of land on the Mat-Su Regional Medical Center property to Spring Creek Enterprise, groups attending the Veterans Wall of Honor were looking forward to the future.

“It is a deep honor to be a part of this relocation project and to work with such great veterans groups, the city of Wasilla, the Mat-Su Health Foundation, everyone who was involved in it,” said Derek Emlock of Alder Architecture and Design.

The move to the new site was not without opposition, as veterans spoke out against the sale of the land on which there had been a verbal agreement that the memorial could stay indefinitely. The old site overlooked the Glenn Highway, and Mount POW/MIA and Gold Star Peak were visible. The new site in Wasilla where the old Iditarod Elementary stood will soon be the home of the Wasilla Police Department when construction on that project is completed. Members from five veterans groups consulted with the Mat-Su Borough and Wasilla Mayor Bert Cottle in selecting a new site for the memorial. The land the wall sits on now was given a 99-year lease with a 99-year option by the city of Wasilla, ensuring that it would indeed rest there for the foreseeable future.

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“We need to take care of the wall. We need to give it a final resting spot. There needs to be some closure so people can move on. I’d love to see the wall stay up there. It’s not going to stay there. It’s just not going to happen,” Cottle said at a Mat-Su Borough Assembly meeting in June. “We will treat it with respect and it will be something we can all be proud of.”

While the old design featured two rows of stones with the names of veterans on the wall, the new design from Alder Architecture and Design is a semi-circle of the seven stones around the flag poles. The concrete flag made by U.S. Marine Joseph Sweeney was moved to the new site as well, sitting just beyond the semi-circle in between stones I and III. The dirt surrounding the flag at the old site was preserved and moved the new site.

Though there was outcry prior to the ceremony, elected officials, veterans and their families gathered at the new wall Sunday to honor the sacrifice of veterans.

“We thank you all of you who served and all of you who have been in support of this project,” Emlock said. “I look forward to the completion of phase two for better conditions for future celebrations.”

Contact Frontiersman reporter Tim Rockey at tim.rockey@frontiersman.com.

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