In recognition of Alaska Veterans and service members

At a time when so many Alaskans are serving overseas, it is important to remember that unlike other military holidays, Veterans Day does not commemorate a great battle or the beginning of a conflict but a day when the world came to be at peace.

The Armistice of November 11, 1918, marked the end of the First World War – the bloodiest and costliest conflict the world had known at that time and an episode in our history when Americans left home to fight in a foreign land. And now, on each successive Veterans Day, we pay our respects to those who wore and are still wearing the uniform. We pay our respects to those who took and are taking on the struggle for a future peace and for freedom in all corners of the world. The occurrence of Veterans Day when we are at war, reminds us that it is not only a day to remember those who have served, but also to think about those who are serving.

As we have always expected of ourselves, Alaskans are nobly doing their part in our current conflict. From our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, Alaskans are at work in Iraq and Afghanistan, patrolling the streets, interacting with families and working to improve conditions through relief efforts and construction projects.

Recently, I spoke with a Col. Mark Shields, Commander of the 172nd Stryker Brigade based out of Ft. Wainwright, currently stationed in Mosul, Iraq. The Brigade is putting their Alaska training to good use as they seize weapons; detain suspected terrorists and work to secure the region. Under adverse conditions, the soldiers’ morale is high and they are comforted knowing that the thoughts and prayers of their friends and families are with them. They’re confronting great danger, liberating nations and adding their own chapter to America's history.

Veterans Day is also an opportunity for us to recognize those working to improve the lives of our former service members here at home. And when the extra effort is needed, you can count on Alaskans to fill the gap. This service to friends and comrades is exemplified by John Wilkins, Jr., who operates the Lady J, otherwise known as the VETBOAT, in Juneau. John and his crew of volunteers use their own money and local contributions to travel from community to community in Southeast providing much needed medical support and administration services to Veterans.

And on this day, when we recognize and recall Veterans’ great achievements, we also remember with sadness those Alaska Veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice. This year, families across the State, from Salcha to Anchorage have undergone the trauma and the burden of lost loved ones. We can never repay these families for their sacrifice, but we can keep them constantly in our thoughts and prayers.

Not only on this holiday, but at all times, we owe our Veterans, our service members and their families immeasurable thanks. And we all hope for a Veterans Day soon that once again comes at a time when the world is at peace.