ICYMI: Murkowski Hosts Secretary Jim Mattis at Fairbanks Military Appreciation Banquet

This past weekend, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) hosted retired Marine Corps four-star General and former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis as her guest of honor at the Fairbanks Military Appreciation Banquet. Organized by the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce and sponsored in part by a number of outstanding Alaska businesses, this annual event honors military members and their families across Interior Alaska.   

“It was a true privilege to have Secretary Mattis join us and speak directly to so many active-duty servicemembers here in the Interior region. I was honored to welcome him back to Alaska—and particularly to Fairbanks, a community that cares so deeply for military members and their families. It speaks volumes that in a room of over 700 people, you could have heard a pin drop the entire time General Mattis spoke,” Senator Murkowski said. “Secretary Mattis is a man of principal, a leader, a patriot, and a true American hero. We are grateful he made the trip to spend some time with us, and share such words of leadership.”

For audio of Senator Murkowski’s remarks, click here.

“Senator Murkowski is a stalwart supporter of America’s military. I appreciate her for inviting me to the great state of Alaska to speak in honor of America’s servicemembers. I also commend the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce for continuing this event – the legacy of Jim and Rosemary Messer. Local events like this are America at its best,” said General Mattis. “Thank you to Alaska’s Golden Heart city for welcoming me to Fairbanks and hosting me as I paid my respects to the men and women of the U.S. Military.

For audio of General Mattis’s remark, click here.

During the banquet, Senator Murkowski and Secretary Mattis presented Marine Lieutenant General Keith J. Stalder (Ret.) with the Hometown Hero Award. General Stalder grew up in Chitina and Fairbanks before joining the Marines in 1973. He retired in 2010 after serving as Commander of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific – the largest field command in the Marine Corps. General Stalder is the only Alaskan to serve as a three-star Marine general.

Senator Murkowski also presented the Messer Award to Nathan Bergerbest, who served in her Washington, DC office from 2003 through 2019.


The Military Appreciation Banquet: The event began in Fairbanks some 53 years ago as an at-home dinner hosted by Jim and Rosemary Messer to honor military members. Since its inception, the banquet has grown into a major annual event which typically draws hundreds of people in support of military members who serve in Interior Alaska and their families.

As a staunch advocate for our military and their families, Murkowski has spoken at the event on multiple occasions. As the senior Senator for Alaska, she is proud to have the responsibility of inviting a guest of honor to serve as the keynote speaker.

The Messer Award: In 1994, senior military commanders in Alaska expressed a desire to recognize Jim Messer for his almost three decades of service to the military members of Alaska’s Interior. As the Chairman of the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce (GFCC) Military Affairs Committee, Jim had long advocated for improved housing, higher pay and benefits, and better morale and welfare programs on Interior military installations. In addition, he and his wife, Rosemary, began the tradition which became the annual GFCC Military Appreciation Banquet. The Chamber approved the request and that year the combined commanders of the military in Alaska recognized Jim with an award. Appropriately, the presentation took place at the Military Appreciation Banquet. The award was named the Messer Award in recognition of its first recipient and has been presented every year since. Senator Murkowski received the Messer Award in 2009.





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