In my normal routine, I can’t say I look up at the mountains and think about their names.
I don’t look at them and think of them as memorials, or even take the time to acknowledge that each peak may have its own name. I certainly never think that the name of a particular peak may mean something special to someone. Normally, if I am gazing at the mountains, I think, “Wow, they sure are pretty today. I wonder if there are any trails on that one that I could hike.”
When I think of memorials, I tend to think of a statue, a monument, a garden, a cemetery, or even verse. I might think of memorials more than the average person. Every day I am haunted by memories of those I loved who are no longer here.
I am a Gold Star Widow.
My husband was a SSGT who was stationed on JBER at the time of his death eight years ago. I miss him every day. I carry him with me through my mundane daily tasks and my grandest adventures. When I see something grandiose, and awe-inspiring, my inner voice quietly whispers “Did you see that, T?”
Recently, someone else has been doing things to keep the memories alive. Every Gold Star family member has their own ways to remember loved ones. Some quietly, some publicly, and some go far beyond. In the case of Kirk Alkire, it was going big. Kirk’s passion, dedication, drive, and persistence have officially paid off in one of the biggest ways possible.
A previously unnamed peak in the Chugach Mountains beside Mount POW/MIA is now Gold Star Peak. What an accomplishment.
As a hiker, I am excited about this breathtaking recognition to fallen service members. To be able to go to this peak, walk my dog, and sit somewhere peaceful, closer to the heavens and enjoy silence and retrospection is overwhelming.
My husband is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, and I can’t just hop in my car and drive there quickly to leave a coin or flower, or sit with him and reflect. Now, however, I can go to a place that is dedicated to his, and the memories of so many others. I can feel closer to him in a new way. I can be driving on the highway and pass by the range and know that there is a place that keeps my husband’s memory alive. I can whisper his name and feel that he is that much closer to me, and that makes my heart joyful.
I believe this pace will become an especially popular rendezvous for Gold Star families and friends.
I foresee many happy gatherings filled with stories, laughter, and love. I am so appreciative of the efforts that have been made in recognition of lives ended too soon. I am so thankful for the recognition and awareness of sacrifice that this peak will bring. Mostly, I am grateful to live in Alaska and to know that I can visit this memorial that will be standing until the end of time; just like my love for my Gold Star.
Dru Stinson enjoys outdoor adventures, gardening, animals, and cooking. She is looking forward to connecting with people in the community and writing their stories.