Veterans Day ceremony honors those who served and sacrificed
Dignitaries, family members, active duty service members and veterans packed the Alaska National Guard armory Saturday, Nov. 11 for the annual Veterans Day ceremony on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
Part celebration, part somber remembrance, the event commemorated the service of both those who served and those who continue to do so in the name of freedom.
“You are my heroes,” said National Guard chaplain Col. Richard Koch, who delivered the event’s keynote address.
Col. Koch used a line from the musical “1776” about the American Revolution to summarize his thoughts on the sacrifice of those who serve.
“Is anybody there, does anybody care?” said Koch, quoting lyrics from the Broadway musical.
He said he’s proud of the thousands of men and women who choose to serve, saying they are the ones who are there and who care.
“Military service, veterans’ service, embodies a lot of sacrifice,” he said.
Koch said that sacrifice is what Veterans Day is all about — honoring those who are willing to sacrifice for their country.
“All in the effort to be this generation’s answer to the question, ‘Is anybody there, does anybody care?’” he said.
The event was attended by several politicians, including U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. Gov. Bill Walker was unable to attend, but First Lady Donna Walker was on hand to present the Governor’s Veterans Advocacy Award to Gordon Severson, a Korea War and four-time Purple Heart recipient who helped establish the Anchorage Veterans Memorial on the Delaney Park Strip in downtown Anchorage in the 1980s.
Severson, 87, still visits the memorial regularly, tending to the monument and bringing flowers. In addition to the award, Severson was also honored with a special song written by veteran Joshua Revak, who sang the song with Joe Pokupec during the event.
Despite decades of veterans advocacy, Severson said he never expected to be honored.
“It was quite a surprise,” he said after the ceremony.
Severson said he couldn’t pinpoint one specific reason why he continues to visit the memorial to pay his respects. It’s a combination of things, he said — part force of habit, part a way to connect with his fellow vets, and part a simple desire to remember the sacrifice and service of others.
“It’s something special,” he said.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story understated Severson’s age by five years. He’s actually 87 — and still working part-time as a bailiff at the Alaska state courthouse.
Email Chugiak-Eagle River Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected]