Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 10:42 PM on Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Memorial Day Let's honor the war dead, and as summer begins, let's resolve to play it safe

A recent Google news alert we received for "Homer, Alaska" mentioned a Connecticut Post article on U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduation ceremonies last Thursday. We found out that newly commissioned Lt. Steven Becker of Austin, Texas, will soon be stationed here.

News like that also alerts us that it's not just tourists making travel plans to Homer this summer, but Coast Guard service members soon to be assigned to our two ships, the USCG Cutter Roanoke Island and Buoy Tender Hickory. While the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, may have made the Coast Guard's mission even more vital, Coasties have been protecting us since 1790.

As a reminder of Coast Guard members' service and sacrifice, one of Alaska's cutters, Munro, homeported in Kodiak, is named after Signalman First Class Douglas Munro, a World War II Congressional Medal of Honor recipient who died Sept. 27, 1942, at Guadalcanal while evacuating a detachment of Marines. His last words were, "Did they get off?"

The last Monday in May honors Munro and thousands of service members who have died in America's wars and military actions. On the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, it's worth remembering that Memorial Day began with an act of reconciliation. In April 1866, women in Columbus, Miss., decorated the graves of Confederate soldiers killed at the battle of Shiloh — and then decorated Union graves when the bareness so disturbed them.

Later, in May 1868, the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans, established Decoration Day, and put flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate dead buried in Arlington National Cemetery. In 1971, Congress established the last Monday in May as Memorial Day.

Last Saturday, the Kachemak Bay Lions made sure no service member's grave lay bare at Hickerson Memorial Cemetery on Diamond Ridge. On Monday services are held there and other cemeteries on the lower Kenai Peninsula. We hope you'll take some time this weekend to attend or take a moment to reflect on those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

The Memorial Day Weekend also marks the unoffical start of the Alaska summer season. Salmon fishing on the Anchor River already started last weekend, and opens again 12:01 a.m. Saturday. At 10 a.m. Saturday, the Homer Farmers' Market opens. On Sunday, the 350-passenger cruise ship Silver Shadow makes its first visit. With warm weather, trees budding, bears roaming and moose calving, who can doubt that the season has arrived?

Oh, and there's one more sign of the season: more Alaska State Troopers, Homer Police and Alaska Division of Forestry cars and trucks on the road. Our cops patrol to keep us driving safe — that means wearing seatbelts, keeping it under the speed limit, staying off the roads if you're drunk and taking a break if you've played too hard and are tired. Firefighters are on alert for fire dangers. All open burning is by permit only. Make campfires only in fire rings and on bare ground.

This week also is National Safe Boating Week. The Coast Guard asks us to file float plans by giving our itineraries to family or friends. For float plan forms, visit www.floatplancentral.org. Buckle up on boats, too, by wearing personal flotation devices and keep your safety gear on board.

Play hard, play safe and remember the purpose of this holiday by honoring our war dead.