Memorial Day: The city recalls

Evergreen Cemetery speaks of the fallen of several wars

Posted: Tuesday, June 01, 2004

For Korean War veteran Gene Dau, listening to the slow, somber notes of taps brings out emotions on Memorial Day.

"It used to send chills up my back - it still does," Dau said of hearing the solitary bugler. "Every year I cry more when I go to the cemetery and hear them play taps.

"It's good to remember those at the cemetery, and all veterans."

Dau was one of about 200 people who gathered Monday morning at Evergreen Cemetery downtown for a ceremony in observance of Memorial Day. A second, simultaneous ceremony was held at Alaska Memorial Park in the Mendenhall Valley.

Memorial Day, which was first observed as Decoration Day in the years immediately following the Civil War, is a day meant to honor those who have given their lives in service to the nation.

However, all deceased veterans at Evergreen Cemetery were honored Monday with small graveside flags. More than a century of American military history could be found within a few steps of the speakers' lectern.

Among the flag-marked gravestones were those of Civil War veteran John B. McPherson; Spanish-American War veteran Adelbert James; World War I veteran Juan Felipi; World War II veteran Axel Nielson; Korean War veteran James Russel Masse; and Vietnam War soldier Charles Gamble Jr., the first Juneau resident killed in that conflict.

Tim Armstrong, a Vietnam veteran and past commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Taku Post 5559, addressed the Evergreen Cemetery gathering.

"Today is a day to remember those whose faces are forever young," he said. "(It is) a day to recall the voices who are now forever still - of brothers, sisters, classmates, friends. ...

"Through memory and recollection we honor their lives."

With the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, Armstrong said honoring veterans is especially important.

"Sacrifices are still being made," he said. "We should never take lightly their vigilance and commitment, nor should we ever forget those who have gone before."

Before and after the ceremony, individuals and families dotted the sloping cemetery, leaving flowers or contemplating gravestones.

Many gathered at the downtown VFW Post Home for a midday chili feed held by the VFW Ladies Auxiliary. Army veteran Val Cooday attended Monday's events as a representative of Southeast Alaska Native Veterans.

"I served in the Vietnam War, and now it's a different kind of war," she said. "But our sons and daughters are dying and I want to remember those who have fallen. ...

"I want to remember all of those that fight for our country, for our freedom - those people who have given their lives for us to be free. It's a very emotional day for me."

Monday's Evergreen Cemetery ceremony was organized by VFW Taku Post 5559. The Alaska Memorial Park ceremony was organized by American Legion Auke Bay Post 25.

• Andrew Krueger can be reached at

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