WASILLA — On the centennial of the end of World War I, nearly 100 people braved the freezing rain, howling winds and freezing temperatures to honor our veterans Sunday morning at the new home of the Veterans Wall of Honor in Wasilla.

On the 11th hour of the 11th day on the 11th month, WWI ended. Armistice Day was honored the next year, and it became a national holiday in 1938, later to be changed to Veterans Day in 1954. The word armistice translates literally to ‘the weapons stand still.’

Proclamations honoring veterans from President Donald Trump, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, Gov. Bill Walker, U.S. Rep. Don Young, Mat-Su Borough Mayor Vern Halter and Wasilla Mayor Bert Cottle were read to a crowd of veterans and families huddled under tarps, determined to honor the sacrifice of our service men and women despite extremely inclement weather.

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The new site of the Veterans Wall of Honor, located on the site of the old Iditarod Elementary building, features a walkway with plaques from veterans organizations. The stones that bear the names of veterans surround the three flag poles bearing the Alaskan flag, the Stars and Stripes, and a POW-MIA flag. Those flags were raised for the first time Sunday morning on the 100th anniversary of the end of The Great War.

“Veterans Day is the most important holiday America has along with Memorial Day. We have some great holidays, but these two represent what America is all about,” Halter said.

The entirety of the freezing, huddled group of people joined in singing the “Star Spangled Banner.” As Valley residents Randi Bernier and Hank Hartman, a veteran, played “Taps” at the end of the ceremony, they initially struggled to play, suffering cold and wet conditions. The pair endured through the performance for all those who had endured through sacrifices in the name of freedom.

“We must remember all those that have given their lives in defense of freedom, and promise to honor their memory, never taking freedom for granted,” Cottle said.

Halter stated that only seven to eight percent of Americans serve in the Armed forces. Nearly one in 10 Alaskans is active or retired military, the highest rate of veterans in the nation.

“These numbers are not just statistics. They are our friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors. They are stories of commitment, courage, strength and perseverance,” Lisa Robinson said in a statement from Sen. Murkowski. “Today we honor them for their devotion to duty, to our state, and to our country.”

The new site for the Veterans Wall of Honor does feature a familiar flag. The concrete flag made by the late Joseph Sweeney, a U.S. Marine. Members of the American Legion Post 35 honored the fallen with a 21-gun salute standing in front of Sweeney’s flag.

“We are eternally indebted to our veterans for their remarkable and valiant service to our United States of America, and we will never forget their selfless allegiance and readiness to put their life on the line,” read a proclamation from Gov. Walker

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

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