Juneau, Alaska (KINY) – As November unfolds its frosty embrace over the Last Frontier, the city of Juneau stands ready to host Veterans Day celebrations.
Commander of the American Legion Post 25, Duff Mitchell, shared what Veterans Day means to him.
“It’s the day of the year where you can say thank you for your service, unlike Memorial Day, which is to remember our fallen,” Mitchell said. “This is to say thank you to the service for all those who’ve ever put on the uniform and served their country. And, you know, it’s celebrated all across the country.”
Vice Commander of the American Legion Post 25, Bill Clutton, summarized the history of how Veterans Day started after World War I. The Versailles Peace Treaty, signed on Jun. 28, 1919, officially ended World War I, but Veterans Day is recognized on Nov. 11 for a different reason.
“The armistice that is a secession of hostilities occurred on November 11, 1918. And that seems to be the date that everybody then really remembered. President Woodrow Wilson, one year after that armistice is the one who proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. And of course, it’s the 11th hour when it was signed. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month,” he said. “In 1938, it actually became a federal holiday. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the war to end all wars. You had World War II and Korea that followed on the heels of that. A lot of the veteran groups lobbied to have the name change to be more representative of everyone who served.”
On Jun. 1, 1954, President Eisenhower signed legislation officially changing the name to Veterans Day.
American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919. The American Legion helped with the flag code and they offer flag disposal for communities to properly retire their flags.
People in Juneau can bring old American flags to Foodland IGA, Sportsman’s Warehouse, and Western Auto.
American Legion helps with a variety of local youth programs.
Mitchell said that the American Legion Post 25 has been in Auke Bay since 1952.
There are over 2,000 veterans in Juneau, and there are different ways around town to celebrate.
Quartermaster Dan McCrummen said the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) will be joining the American Legion for their annual event.
It starts promptly at 11:00 a.m. Saturday at Centennial Hall. Doors will open at 10:30 a.m.
Coast Guard Chaplain Christopher Sutton will give the invocation and benediction, and Coast Guard Captain John D. Cole will be the keynote speaker.
The American Legion Post 25 is also hosting an open house from noon to 2 p.m. at its location at 12480 Glacier Hwy., where pulled pork sandwiches and other food will be served.
The Southeast Alaska Native Veterans will hold a ceremony and give out a free lunch on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall.
American Indian and Alaska Native people serve in the US Armed Services at a higher rate than any other group.
Veterans for Peace, Chapter 100 plans to meet at 10:45 a.m. to ring a bell at the Alaska State Capitol on 4th Street in recognition of Armistice Day.
At 2:30 p.m., there will be a gathering at the Pioneer’s Home for the 15 veterans there.
Closing Saturday’s events is a special veteran dinner at the Juneau Elk Club. That will take place at 5:30 p.m.
The public is encouraged to attend events to show their support.
On Saturday, veteran-owned Barnaby Brewing Co. will be handing out free beers all day to veterans. On Friday, Alaska Brewing Co. showed their support with a ‘We Salute You’ event where the Alaska Brew Co bought a beer for all veterans, active-duty service members, and their significant others.
McCrummen added information on what the VFW does.
“We’ve got approximately 1.5 million members in all 50 states and many foreign territories, about 6,000 posts worldwide. The main thing we do is we provide services to veterans,” he said. “We have veteran service officers all over the place, several up here in Alaska. They assist veterans with their claims with the VA.”
The VFW also has scholarships for students.
Clutton recognized the recent passing of Tim Armstrong, who was a past commander of the VFW, past commander of the American Legion, and a Purple Heart recipient.
“One of our strongest advocates was going to be here for the first time on this Veterans Day, Tim Armstrong. He passed away just recently,” Clutton said. “He was probably one of the strongest proponents for veterans this town has seen in a long, long time.”
Armstrong served for years as a veterans service officer. He was also well known for his Bullwinkles commercials back in the day.
Veterans Day in Juneau is a tribute to all veterans, living or dead, in war or peace.
“It’s a very, very, special day,” Clutton said.