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By ZACHARY HALASCHAK
Daily News Staff Writer
Hands were held and prayers were said in Ketchikan this past weekend as the community honored those who served with a number of Veterans Day events.
Although officially celebrated on Saturday, Nov. 11, the commemorations began on Friday, which was a federal holiday.
At the Ketchikan Pioneer Home, elderly veterans were honored with hand-made quilts called “quilts of valor.” Cheri Davis of The Rainy Days Quilters Guild explained in more depth what the program entails.
“It’s an international program,” Davis explained. “… it’s been going since about 2003, I believe. They started out just giving quilts to new veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, but soon realized they needed to expand to veterans who had just never been recognized for their service.
“This is a great way to catch the (veterans) who are in the tail-end of the age groups, like we are doing here, ones that served in WWII or Korea.”
Davis explained that the goal was to give every veteran in the Pioneer Home a quilt.
“We gave out — I think it might have been 12 or 13 — at our annual quilt show in February last year,” Davis said. “… So this year we wanted to finish off with the veterans who are living here currently and make sure we got all of them, and that’s what we’ve done today.”
Clancy Price is one of the veterans who was previously honored the first time the quilters handed out quilts and told the Daily News that it was an honor to receive it.
“It felt really good,” Price said. “I’ve got it in my bedroom, hanging on the wall — everyone sees it.”
Davis said her group’s goals don’t end at the Pioneer Home. She explained that she hopes to provide quilts for “a long list of veterans in this town” and that the they will keep quilting no matter how many years that takes.
The following veterans received quilts of valor at Friday’s event:
• Gordon Edgars — Air Force
• Jay Farrell — Army
• George Gardner — Army
• Dick Graham — Marines
• Dean Lee — Navy
• Mac McManus — Navy
On Saturday the Joseph T. Craig Post 3 of the American Legion hosted a pancake breakfast in the morning.
Originally a march was planned, but given the First City’s rainy weather, festivities remained indoors at the American Legion building.
The Coast Guard started by presenting colors and marching back out. There was also an invocation. A number of individuals took time to speak about what Veterans Day means to them and the importance of honoring those who have served.
Joseph Reeves, an Army veteran and the local VFW post commander, spoke about the importance of the oath the veterans in the room took and about continuing to honor their service.
“I see WWII, I see Korea, I see Vietnam, … Iraq, Kuwait,” Reeves noted. “We stand by that oath for life. It’s not something you pick up or put down; it’s something that we live by day in and day out.”
“I’m so honored to see all you good people here,” Reeves added, noting the packed hall of a few dozen or so people.
In addition to the speeches, First Bank presented both groups with checks.
Sheila Kleinschmidt spoke on behalf of First Bank and explained the initiative.
“It’s truly an honor to be here,” Kleinschmidt said. “First Bank promoted a campaign for National Military Awareness Month throughout all of the communities we do business in. And we offered $25 for each new account that was opened to be given to any veteran organization … In addition if someone wanted to make a donation, we would match that donation, up to $100.”
She noted that in the southern Southeast region of Alaska just over $9,000 was given to veteran groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.
“Today I am here to present the rest of the funds to the American Legion and the VFW here in Ketchikan,” Kleinschmidt said as checks of $500 were donated to the VFW and American Legion, respectively.
Dennis Spurgeon, a veteran of the Air Force, spoke to the Daily News about the importance of the holiday.
“There are so many people who have gone before us and are currently serving,” Spurgeon said. “Society loses track of what has been accomplished by the veterans. So we need a day to open everybody’s eyes up, to kinda be reintroduced to the things the military has done for them.”
Following the speeches, the American Legion opened its doors for an open house where veterans could sip coffee and mingle with the dozens of people in attendance.
All of these events had one common thread — thankfulness. It was a concept spoken about by a number of speakers and a feeling that was palpable at both Friday and Saturday’s events.