By the people and for the people: A Memorial Day observance like no other - Must Read Alaska
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Thursday, April 15, 2021
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By the people and for the people: A Memorial Day observance like no other

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QUICK WORK BY CITIZENS AFTER OFFICIAL CEREMONY CANCELED

As many as 200 Alaskans gathered around the flagpole at the Delaney Park Strip on Monday to take part in a hastily organized Memorial Day observance, after the annual Municipality of Anchorage event was unceremoniously canceled late last week by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz.

Bernadette Wilson, a local business owner and activist, was the force of nature that brought all the elements together. The diminutive, lifelong Alaskan, niece of Gov. Walter J. Hickel, told attendees that they could expect a bobble or two in the proceedings, and that the big-name politicians were not in attendance. Today, it was just the people saying thank you to their heroes and telling living veterans that they, too, will never be forgotten, pandemic or no pandemic.

“This is not a state event. This is not a municipal event. … To be honest with you, I kind of thought they might show up today and attempt to tell us we couldn’t be here,” Wilson said.

“This is a ‘We the People’ event,” Wilson said, speaking into a low-powered sound system, without a stage or large speakers to amplify her message.

Talk show radio host Eddie Burke came up with the idea last Thursday to have an alternative “People’s Memorial Day” event, but it was really Wilson who took the idea and ran with it on Saturday and Sunday.

“This event was planned 48 hours ago by a few patriots who felt a great responsibility to keep our promise to never forget,” said Wilson, who has never missed a Memorial Day visit to her grandfather’s gravesite at Fort Richardson — until this year, when JBER canceled the public participation.

“We are missing some the things we have all come to know and love and associate with Memorial Day,” she said.

There would be no 21-gun salute. No military jet flyover. No presentation of colors.

“I cannot even tell you I have all the protocols down 100 percent,” Wilson said. “But what I can tell you, and I really and truly believe, is that hundreds of thousands of solders are smiling down on us from heaven above, stretching from Arlington to Fort Richardson National Cemetery. So while there may be a couple of hundred of us here, every single one of those souls is with us right now. Whether it’s your grandfather, your dad, your sister or your best friend, they are very much with us today.”

Wilson said that at some point in each person’s life they have the call to duty to defend the nation’s freedoms. “Today, as those freedoms hang so delicately in the balance, you answered the call and fulfilled your promise to never forget. This Memorial Day — especially — will be a day we never forget.

Wilson said that she had no grand dignitaries to introduce, and the crowd warmly received that news with applause.

“The mayor will not be joining us,” she said, and then had to stop for a moment to wait for the applause to die down.

“We can find certain excitement in the reminder that indeed it is not government that has solved our problems, it is everyday average Americans that became heroes,” she continued.

“So despite what the municipality of Anchorage has not sponsored, today ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people,’ we remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Wilson said.

“We’re bringing a message loud and clear to our veterans: We will never ever — with or without government — in the good times or in the times we have the virus, we will never ever forget you.” – Bernadette Wilson

Vocalist John Teamer sang the National Anthem and the Alaska Flag Song, as well as the official songs of the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force, and Lt. Gen. Craig Campbell, Air National Guard, Alaska National Guard (ret.), gave appropriate, not lengthy keynote remarks. A bugler played “Taps.”

Then several wreaths were solemnly presented for fallen members of each of the branches of service. The wreaths, too, were quickly assembled over the weekend by a volunteer.

Among those attending were former Lt. Gov. Loren (and Carolyn) Leman, Attorney General Kevin Clarkson, and former Mayor Dan Sullivan, but none had speaking roles.

Legislators in attendance included Reps. Chris Tuck, Lance Pruitt, Gabrielle Ledoux, Laddie Shaw, Mel Gillis, Sharon Jackson, and Sen. Josh Revak and Bill Wielechowski. Only one Anchorage Assembly member attended: Jamie Allard of Eagle River. They, too, did not have speaking roles at the “People’s Memorial Day” observance.

Want more? Watch Must Read Alaska’s drone video coverage of the event here:

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Thank you Suzanne. I have emailed this to every email friend. And thank you Bernadette. My husband is a Viet Nam vet and made the comment that this is why we live in and love Alaska.

    • Thank you and your husband for selflessly giving to our country.

  • It was a very special gathering honoring the special military bond with those that have served and those Patriots that are still serving today. Enjoyed it greatly! We had the opportunity to be with special people!

  • Well done, Bernadette and Alaska citizens! A grassroots effort to commemorate our Fallen Warriors, and an example of citizen patriotism that requires no approval from any government entity. Although it would have been a nice gesture to conduct such a remembrance in Arlington or Ft. Richardson, it shows that where the memorial is conducted is not as important at that fact THAT it was conducted. The fallen have been tastefully and warmly remembered; I only wish I had heard of the intended event sooner. The Matsu Memorial event was planned for Sunday, but I chose to celebrate an “in church” service occurring at the same time. Never Forgotten!

  • Wish I could have been there, but the FB live was outstanding. Went to the Wasilla rememberance, wet but great still! Best speakers Don Young and a lady and her daughter from AMVETs about the Poppie.

  • It was perfect in all respects. Many many thanks to Eddie, Bernadette, Craig, John, Roberta, Jamie, and everyone else involved in making this day as special as it should be. And thanks Suzanne for getting the word out. The crowd was tremendous.

  • Thank you to the people who did this. You are appreciated.

  • Hopefully this is a part of people waking up and realizing that we do not need government to do everything for us. We can do great things without governments helping hand. Great job by those who put this ceremony on in such short notice! I’m proud as an American that so many were able to remember what this day is all about.

    • Maybe politicians will be considered “non-essential” after the pandemic is over?

  • If only we had those fallen heroes now. If they saw what a mess the leftists have made of our country, they would be sorely saddened. I miss many of my military friends and always will. Most were as much family as family. Never Forgotten.

  • Nicely done! It’s so refreshing to see how people can act quickly and get things done. Toss out the stuffy protocols. Remove the pretentious “leaders”. Ax the pre-canned scripts. Isn’t life easier when it isn’t bogged down by the insidious overreach of Government?
    .
    Remembering those that gave the ultimate sacrifice. That is all that should ever matter at these ceremonies. Not who gets to sit up front or gets to lay their wreath first.

  • Thank you Bernadette and Eddie and all others that organized this solemn and necessary observance honoring our fallen comrades.Words can not express the gratitude and love you all showed our fallen and currently serving heroes. One day out of each year to decorate their graves and remember them should never be abandoned for any reason. Many sacrificed their lives facing far greater danger then the current virus ?. How dare our politicians and leaders be afraid ? to honor them. I am very grateful to those that did attend today and saddened by those that cowered in fear. God Bless you all and the fallen??????????????

  • Honoring those who made the ‘ultimate sacrifice’.
    Something our current mayor can not comprehend.
    He’s sacrificed nothing in his life. And honors not, those who have.
    Thank you Bernadette and Eddie for stepping up to honor those who sacrificed all, for all of us!

  • Thank you so much to those who organized this so important event of remembrance and honor. It seems it was far more meaningful being a citizen effort and given these crazy times.

  • The State Legislature has gone out of its way to prove and convince us all that they are non-essential. Some of them are keepers, but you could count them on your normal fingers and have fingers left over.

    Many Alaskans lost their businesses and jobs and struggled to survive. The Legislature voluntarily went home without adjourning and continued to draw their salaries plus per diem for doing nothing.

    When confronted with no other choice to spend federal dollars, they rushed back to Juneau like rabbits being chased by a wolf and hopped back home in less than 24 hrs including adjournment. So fast, the House left town before the Senate even voted or knew they were gone. That sure demonstrates respect and love for their colleagues, and all Alaskans.

    One legislator stayed behind to hold a public hearing after adjournment because the Left wants an all mail-in balloting system to control the outcome of all future elections.

    Just look at Anchorage’s all mail-in system. An all liberal Assembly, but one from Eagle River, and every bond passed, including the second time around for increasing alcohol taxes. Liberal voters will rule for the future.

    Liberals are using the virus as an excuse just like the national Socialist Party demanding mail-in to save your life. But it is just a con job!
    They don’t really think most Alaskans are unable to follow guidelines for masks and hand washing to vote.

    I don’t believe Alaskans will cower at home but will vote! Sorry Rep. Kriess-Tomkins.

  • Looks to me like the “We the People” faction are trolling for Darwin awards.
    Just because someone doesn’t believe something is true, or not true, doesn’t mean that the laws of nature are not still in play.
    Frankly, I have no problem with people gathering in defiance of recommendations to the opposite, but there may, or may not, be consequences, and those who gather need to understand that magical thinking will not negate them.

  • Bernadette, you are one class act! Thank you for honoring our Veterans. From a Veteran.

  • Just beautiful! I was working on Memorial Day but I regret having missed this beautiful event! Does my heart good! #libertyisnotfree #neverforget

  • I regret I was unable to attend this year..unaware of the “unofficial” gathering. Well done and grateful for those who attended, regardless of the Mayor’s proclamation???

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