WASILLA — The Greater Wasilla Chamber of Commerce held its 2019 Military Appreciation Lunch Tuesday afternoon at the Settler’s Bay Golf Course to honor all members of the U.S. military and veterans for their service.

“You feel called to serve. It’s not just a job; and when you do that service, it is a life and death service. It has life and death impact… I think that really answers the question why we appreciate our people who have served and given the way that they have,” U.S. Air Force veteran and Wayland Baptist University Executive Director and Campus Dean, Dr. Eric Ash said during his key note address.

City officials, doctors, business owners, nonprofit directors, and other community members all gathered on Tuesday to show their appreciation for both active and retired military. Several speakers discussed the importance of communities doing what they can to support the U.S. military in addition to relevant information, updates, events and resources for local military members and veterans.

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“I would like to thank each and every past, present and future military for writing a blank check to the U.S. government and everybody in this country. So, thank you for your service.” U.S. Navy veteran and Wasilla Chamber Director at Large, Joy Fearn-Condon said.

Fearn-Condon addressed the crowd in the golf course’s outdoor pavilion with a warm wind blowing under the beating sun and sound of jet engines.

“I’d also like to thank the Air Force today for providing background freedom music. I think that is awesome and very appropriate for today,” Fearn-Condon said.

Among the attending veterans were WWII vet Fred Seville (97), WWII vet Walt Fergus (94), WWII vet Bob Murray (94), and Vietnam vet Ron Pluta.

Seville served three years in the Navy during WWII as the USS LST-719’s radio personnel. He was part of the Asiatic Pacific Theater Campaigns that sent troops to the Philippines and Japan.

Fergus was in the Army Air Core and moved onto the Army. He is the only living WWII POW in the entire state. During WWII, he was stationed in Italy as tail gunner for a B245. While he was flying over Italy, he was shot down and taken to a German POW camp. Fergus retired as a Master Sargent after serving 30 years in the military.

Murray served in the Army Air Corps for two years and the National Guard for six years. Murray was an Armorer for the P-38 fighter planes, loading machine guns, 200-pound bombs and 500-pound bombs that were used to bomb German troops occupying Northern Italy. He spent two months in Africa then he was stationed in Italy during the same time as his older brother and Fergus. Murray retired as a Corporal Sargent.

Pluta started in the SeeBees, the U.S. Naval Construction Battalion then went to the Reserves, clocking in a combined time of 22 years in the military. He was stationed in Scotland for three years, overseeing the nuclear store room. He spent time on Nuclear Power Submarines armed with UGM-27 Polaris missiles and eventually retired as a SK II.

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

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