Anchorage Community Pays Tribute to Military
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Feb. 24, 2007 Anchorage ’s community spirit was in fine form last night as about 1,000 people came out in evening dress and black tie to pay tribute to the men and women of the U.S. armed forces.
U.S. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks during the 30th Annual Salute to the Military hosted by the Armed Services YMCA of Alaska, in Anchorage, Alaska, Feb. 23, 2007. Defense Dept. photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens introduced the military’s top ranking officer as the event’s guest speaker. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife Lynne, traveled from Washington , D.C., for the 30th Annual Salute to the Military hosted by the Armed Services YMCA of Alaska.
The gala’s guest list included all of the city’s movers and shakers – the mayor, former and retired military members, veteran’s organizations, a host of corporation presidents and business leaders as well as legislators, senators, representatives and assembly members.
Anchorage City Manager Denis C. LeBlanc said the 275,000 people who make up the community “embrace the military.”
“This is the biggest gathering I’ve seen in my ten years here,” he told American Forces Press Service. “If you are anyone here in Alaska, particularly in Anchorage, you are here tonight.”
LeBlanc said the military is a significant part of the Anchorage family. About 15,000 troops and family members are stationed “on the city’s doorstep,” he said, on Elmendorf AFB, Fort Richardson and Kulis Air National Guard Base.
Driving out of one of Elmendorf AFB’s gates, for example, a sign indicates it’s only 1.5 miles to downtown Anchorage. The close physical proximity, LeBlanc said, promotes community spirit and close ties between military leaders and state and city leaders.
“Having lived in other cities, there was a separation between the community and the military base. Here it’s the next street,” LeBlanc said. “There is no differentiation between them and us. That’s why I think a lot of the military that come to Alaska retire here because they feel so accepted, so embraced by the community that they just want to be part of it.”
Although there were many mid-level and senior officers among the chattering guests, the packed gala wasn’t only for the high ranking. About 130 or so enlisted service members from every branch of the active duty, Reserve and National Guard also decked out for the gala. They were special guests of the Armed Services YMCA and the Anchorage Community.
“The Armed Services YMCA is a treasure of the community,” LeBlanc said. “They reach out to these young people and they try to provide whatever they need. We know they’re away from home. We know they’re stressed – but they’re all smiling, because they know they’re in Anchorage, Alaska .”
As the gala got underway, the emcee recognized an outstanding member from each of the services as well as every service member who carried the colors and the service flags into the room. Guests were invited to stand, hoot and holler when the Air Force Band of the Pacific – Alaska Brass played each service song.
When the chairman took the podium to give his keynote address, he said he’d come a long way to say two simple words – thank you -- to anyone who would listen.
“To the men and women in this room tonight who wear the cloth of our armed forces, thank you for who you are and what you do,” he said.
Pace said it is an incredible honor for him to represent the 2.4 men and women of the active duty military, National Guard and Reserves who have each solemnly sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.
“I’m here to tell you and to remind all of us, that the families of the service men and women serve this country as well as anyone who has ever worn the uniform,” the chairman said, drawing applause.
Pace also acknowledged the veterans in the room, which included several World War II veterans. “To all who have served before, thank you, not only for your service, but for the legacy you have given us. You have shown us how to properly serve this nation,” Pace said.
“It’s an interesting fact that in combat, it is not that our servicemen and women do not know fear. We certainly do,” Pace said. “There have been times that I could have crawled up inside my helmet and waited for my Mother to call me home.
“What overrides the fear of physical harm,” he said, “is the fear that those of us who now have the honor of serving this nation, would let down those who went before us. Or, that we would somehow let down the soldier, Marine, airman, sailor or coast guardsman on our left or our right.
“It is the fear of not performing to the standard set by our veterans that spurs us on to serve this nation the way we do. So you veterans in this room tonight, thank you, for not only defending this nation during your time in uniform, but in showing us how to do it properly for the decades to come.”
The chairman then turned to thank the Anchorage community for their “incredible outpouring of support and love.”
“What a delight it has been to be here with you,” he said. “This community, this state, your contributions to the security of our nation, this gathering tonight where you are showing those of us in uniform how much you appreciate us, it makes a difference. Thank you for your support.”
During the gala, the Anchorage community recognized the following outstanding servicemembers:
- Army NCO of the Year Sgt. Shanna D. Foremny, 164th Military Police Company, Fort Richardson, Alaska
- Alaskan Reserve Soldier of the Year Sgt. Anthony E. Rivas, 1102d Garrison Support Unit, Ft. Richardson, Alaska
- Active Duty Marine of the Year Lance Cpl. Timothy M. Huebscher, Company D, Anti-Terrorism Battalion, Elmendorf AFB, Alaska
-Alaskan Reserve Marine of the Year Cpl. Travis C. Kauffman, Company D, Anti-Terrorism Battalion, Elmendorf AFB, Alaska
- Alaska Sailor of the Year Petty Officer 1st Class Robert D. Evans, Alaskan Command, Elmendorf AFB, Alaska
- Naval Reservist of the Year Master at Arms Petty Officer First Class Victor O. DeMoss, Naval Magazine Indian Island Det. C, Fort Richardson , Alaska
- Elmendorf Airman of the Year Staff Sgt. Jaclyn Rutan, 3rd Communications Squadron, Elmendorf AFB, Alaska
- Air Force Reservist of the Year Tech. Sgt. Jerry A. Hedstrom, 804th Civil Engineer Squadron, Elmendorf AFB, Alaska
- Alaska Coast Guardsman of the Year Food Specialist 1st Class Andrea L. Bisignani, USCG SAR, Kodiak , Alaska
- Alaskan Reserve Person of the Year Port Security Specialist 1st Class Michael W. McClure, U.S. Coast Guard Sector, Juneau, Alaska
- Alaska Air National Guard Airman of the Year Senior Airman Daniel r. Krueger, 176th Maintenance Squadron, Kulis Air Guard Base, Alaska
- Alaska Army National Guard Soldier of the Year Spc. Brian V. Norris, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry, Fort Richardson , Alaska