Beginning with a musical “Tribute to Veterans” performed last Saturday and continuing with the ceremonies and parade planned for this weekend, area residents are calling to mind the contributions of the nation’s veterans.
The Anchorage Concert Chorus, University of Alaska Anchorage Wind Ensemble and University Singers performed before a Mariner Theatre audience Saturday afternoon, under the direction of UAA Professor of Music Mark Wolbers and Assistant Professor Grant Cochran.
“The Golden Star” by John Philip Sousa opened the program. Known for his marches, Sousa wrote this piece at the request of Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt as a duel memory to her son Quentin, a 20-year-old pilot shot down behind enemy lines in 1918, and her husband who died in early 1919. The music’s name refers to the star the families of deceased veterans place in their windows.
As “Armed Forces Salute,” played during the second half of the concert, was an opportunity for members of the audience and musicians to stand and be recognized when they heard the song for the branch of the military in which they served.
Events in Homer begin Sunday at 11 a.m., marking the armistice between the Allies and Germany that went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, seven months before the signing of the Treaty of Versailles that officially brought World War I to an end on June 28, 1919.
In November of that year, President Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. It was a day designated for parades, public meetings and brief work stoppage beginning at 11 a.m. In 1938, it became known at Veterans Day and in 1954 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
Bill Shelton of American Legion Post 16 is coordinating Sunday’s activities, beginning with a ceremony at the Veterans Memorial site by the Emblem Club at the corner of Lake Street and Pioneer Avenue.
That is followed by a parade that begins at that location, continues down Pioneer to Main Street, down Main Street to the Sterling Highway and ends at the General Buckner Veterans Memorial at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center.
“We’ve got the U.S. Coast Guard leading off with a color guard. Then it’s going to be the VFW from Anchor Point, the American Legion, the American Legion Auxiliary, the VFW Auxiliary, the Emblem Club and usually some Elks involved,” Sheldon said of parade participants.
Sheldon has a collection of old military uniforms from each branch of the military and he anticipates they will be on display in the parade. A silhouette of a kneeling soldier created by Mike Morawitz and mounted on a trailer towed by Sheldon’s World War II Jeep is part of the line-up. Add a float by the junior American Legion Auxiliary, the big Homer Airport fire truck and a police escort, and it will be a parade to see.
The police escort is especially important when encountering impatient drivers during the parade’s short jaunt on the Sterling Highway.
“People don’t want to stop,” said Sheldon. “They drive up on the sidewalk to get around us, that kind of thing.”
A ceremony at the General Buckner Veterans Memorial follows the parade. Sheldon said there were be several readings from the American Legion manual, a wreath will be laid at the memorial, a gun salute will be given and taps will be played.
At noon the Elks Club is providing lunch for parade participants, veterans and their families. The food is furnished by the Emblem Club, the American Legion Auxiliary and the VFW.
Sheldon said others are welcome to join the parade.
“I’m hoping for some Girl Scouts and some Boy Scouts and a high school singer or two to sing God Bless America,” said Sheldon. “We’ve done that in the past. … The more, the merrier.”
To join the festivities, call Shelton at 235-6789.
On Monday, city, state and federal offices are closed in observance of Veterans Day.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.