Some 300 men, women and children stood under gray skies and steady rainfall to attend a packed Memorial Day ceremony in downtown Wasilla.
Gathered at the Mat-Su Veterans Wall of Honor, attendees witnessed a 21-gun salute to the fallen dead. In attendance were Rep. Don Young, Gov. Mike Dunleavy and a host of local dignitaries. Speakers sat under a canopy surrounded by seven granite walls with the names of hundreds of veterans etched in stone.
“I have a written proclamation, but I’m going to talk from my heart about the veterans that did not return,” Young told the crowd. “God bless them. They fought, they worked, they bled, and they cried to save the liberties and freedoms of this great nation.”
Young asked attendees whether they thought fallen soldiers would approve of how Americans have dealt with and defended their personal liberties during the coronavirus outbreak.
“I wonder today what they’d be thinking looking at this epidemic,” Young said. “Would they be thinking, ‘We’re really proud of you’ or would they be thinking, ‘Don’t give up your liberties and your freedoms and the rights of the Constitution – be sure that you live by that.’”
Young said he was proud of how Alaskans and Gov. Dunleavy have handled the virus, but he urged attendees to be vigilant in preserving their hard-fought liberties and freedoms for future generations.
“Memorial Day is one day, but it should be 365 days a year,” Young said. “Remember those who sacrificed their lives for the good of this country and yourselves so every young person could be free and happy and be proud to be Americans and Alaskans.”
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Despite ongoing concern over COVID-19, the parking lot in Wasilla was packed to capacity. Attendees carried flags and umbrellas. A handful wore face masks, but the vast majority did not.
Gov. Dunleavy spoke after Young.
“I want to thank all of you for coming out today,” he said. “I want to thank all of you veterans (who) served our country – and continue to serve our country.”
He pointed to the seven stone walls and offered gratitude for those “whose names are behind us – etched in history for what they’ve done – the ultimate sacrifice.”
“I know there are family members out here who have families on the wall,” Dunleavy added. “And I know there are friends out here – people that you served with – they are on the wall. This country came into being because we fought for our rights.”
Dunleavy noted that the names on the wall represent multiple generations who served “to protect us so that we could have the life that we have today. For that I am eternally grateful.”
Following the speeches, attendees placed wreaths and flowers at the base of the walls.