Nome honors the fallen on a snowy Memorial Day
At 11 o’clock on May 29, only a small crowd had gathered in the snowy weather to see the Memorial Day parade march down Front Street. But as the parade made its way towards the Nome Cemetery, more and more people joined until a large crowd stood in cemetery to honor the fallen.
Nome’s annual Memorial Day commemorations, hosted by the VFW, began before the parade with the VFW broadcasting wise words from veterans over the loudspeakers on Front Street. The words turned to patriotic music as the parade came in view.
Approximately 28 veterans marched in the parade behind four flag bearers. They were greeted by residents who lined the streets, waving and joining in to march as the parade went by. Due to the cold and snowy weather this year, even more chose to view the parade from their cars and drove behind the police escort in a procession.
The parade ended at a decorated podium set up in the cemetery, underneath a giant flag hung on a firetruck, provided by Nome Volunteer Fire Department.
The program, shortened due to the weather, began with a prayer by Bertha Koweluk, Pastor at the Community United Methodist Church and the Pledge of Allegiance in English and Inupiaq led by Girl Scout Troop 352. They were followed by musical commemorations: the National Anthem, the Alaska Flag song, and ‘Taps’ played by Nicholas Reader. The Alaska Flag song, sung by Jackie Reader, was a new addition to the ceremony.
Then Scot Henderson read Governor Mike Dunleavy’s Memorial Day Proclamation. Dunleavy’s words reminded listeners of “the true cost of our freedom so we never take it for granted,” the speech called the audience to “honor our nations fallen soldiers and pray for our active-duty members.”
Next Mark Hayward, Army Staff Sergeant of Special Forces and Captain in Army Medical Specialist Corps, gave a remembrance speech. Hayward pointed out that “Words alone are not enough - and will never be enough - in memorial to our honored dead.” He quoted Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they (have) so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.”
Hayword continued, “And so we are here today: because we do not forget, we cannot forget, we will not forget the lives they lived, and the sacrifice they made, so that we might have the opportunity to be here today in their remembrance. And their story does not end and will never have an ending, not for as long as their example moves us —moves us from the past, into the present; moves us from mere words, into action; and moves us, and the world with us, into the future we create, through each moment’s choices, for as long as we ourselves carry their memory with us. In so doing, we honor them, this day and always.”
The procession then went down to Snake River for the commemoration of those lost at sea. The ceremony involves casting wreaths of flowers into the river. Due to the weather, that part of the ceremony was held closer to town than in the past. Traditionally the wreath is thrown from a helicopter, once used in action. Unfortunately, also due to the weather, the helicopter could not fly this Memorial Day. Instead, Marine Veteran Henry Brosnaham cast the wreaths from the Snake River bridge as ‘Taps’ were played a second time. Brosnaham served during the Vietnam along with six childhood friends. Of his group, only Brosnaham returned home.
The Bering Sea James C Kealiher Memorial Post 9569, known informally around Nome as the VFW hosted the entire parade and commemoration ceremony.
Peggy Darling, President of the VFW auxiliary thanked all those who contributed including Nome Volunteer Fire Department, Trinh’s Floral Shop, and the individuals who helped to decorate and run sound. Darling called the parade a powerful moment for the veterans in the area, saying that it was a chance for “peace and brotherhood” for people who are mourning lost friends.
After the public ceremonies, the VFW hosted a private gathering for veterans and their families to share in some “fellowship on such a difficult day.”