Vets Day more than a day off work

Ceremony to pay tribute to veterans begins at 11 a.m. at Centennial Hall

Posted: Friday, November 11, 2005

Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

  Remembering vets: Maj. Simon Brown of the Alaska National Guard 3rd Battalion stands Thursday at the University of Alaska Southeast/Alaska Army National Guard Joint Use Facility. Brown will be the keynote speaker at a Veterans Day ceremony, starting at 11 a.m. today at Centennial Hall.

Many Juneau residents will have the chance to sleep in or do some extra chores around the house today. Mike Walsh hopes the community will think of Veterans Day as more than just a day off.

"It's not just another holiday to take a day off of work - it's a day to reflect and think about the freedoms that we have as a country," he said. "Not only the freedom that we have but why we have the freedom and who helped us to attain that freedom."

Walsh, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam in 1968, is now the senior vice-commander for the Juneau chapter of Disabled American Veterans, which works to ensure veterans receive the benefits they are due.

He said today's holiday is about appreciation for veterans' sacrifices.

"If you talk to most veterans, they're not even interested in people saying 'you're a great hero' ... just the appreciation of saying 'thanks for being willing to serve your country in anyway that you could.'"

A Veterans Day ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. today at Centennial Hall. The holiday is formerly known as Armistice Day, the anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended combat in World War I.

The Juneau Youth Choir, United States Coast Guard Color Guard and many veterans will pay honor to those who have served in the military. Maj. Simon Brown, executive officer of the 3rd Battalion of the Alaska Army National Guard, is the featured guest speaker.

"All the freedoms that we have and the things that we have at our disposal on a daily basis, a lot of that is the result of veterans starting back with the Revolutionary War and all the things our great country has gone through," Brown said.

Regardless of whether they have served in the military, Brown said he hopes the community will take a little time out of the day to reflect.

"No matter what your social, political or religious beliefs are, take the day just to say to each veteran, 'Thanks for what you've done.' It doesn't mean you have to agree with everything that we do, but at least it's showing you appreciate that he is willing to put the world and the state of Alaska's safety ahead of his own," he said.

Jim Pisa, a veteran of the Coast Guard and commander of American Legion Auke Bay Post 25, said he hopes a lot of people will come to the service today to show their appreciation for veterans.

"It's a day to honor all veterans," he said. "It's not like Memorial Day, where we honor our veterans that have passed away, but it's more for the active duty veterans and the retired veterans."

Pisa also said it is important to honor military families, because the country is fighting a war on terrorism.

"I think it's really important, especially since we have so many of our young men and women from the Juneau area and the state of Alaska serving out there," he said.

Sgt. 1st Class Andy Swanston of the Alaska Army National Guard said there are troops from Juneau serving honorably in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said they are doing an important job and representing Alaska and the country well.

"There's a variety of opinions, but the people can disagree with stuff in Juneau and yet they are still very supportive," Swanston said. That support is much appreciated, he said.

Brown said he hopes the community will continue to show its support.

"Each one of these guys has voluntarily given up time away from their family, time away for their civilian jobs, and put their life on the line for all of us," he said. "Sometimes we don't see it as fighting overseas, as putting their lives on the line for us, but someone had to do it and they volunteered to do it."

Each veteran thinks about different things on Veterans Day. Swanston said he thinks about the fine people with whom he has served. Pisa said he thinks about the men and women of the Coast Guard protecting the waterways. And Walsh said he thinks about what soldiers are doing overseas, like his son-in-law serving in Iraq.

"For me - my ability to sit here and have freedoms to go and come as I please is a result of veterans," Brown said.

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