“Thank you for your service.” We’ve all heard the words, we might have even said them ourselves. While thanking a Service member for his or her service to our country is a nice gesture, many individuals and organizations do not understand or know how to provide meaningful thanks beyond kind words or a Military discount.
In September of 2017, the Department of Veterans Affairs released findings from its analysis of Veteran suicide data for 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. The findings were based upon a comprehensive examination of more than 55 million records from 1979 to 2014. Among many other things, they found that risk for suicide was 22 percent higher among veterans when compared to U.S. non-veteran adults. We lose a veteran to suicide every 72 minutes, equaling 20 veterans a day.
Even with the highest veteran population (per capita) in the country, Alaska was the last state in the union to have a museum dedicated to honoring veterans and Alaska's contributions to military history. It was only through ten years of blood, sweat, and many tears of passionate volunteers that the Alaska Veterans Museum opened its doors on April 17th, 2011. Still operating as a 100% volunteer organization, their mission is simple; honor Alaska’s veterans' by recording and sharing their stories; educate visitors about Alaska’s military history through exhibits and displays; and inspire our community to support our Active Duty, Guard and Reserve, and our veterans.
In early December, a peak in the Chugach Range between Eagle River and Palmer overlooking the Knik River moved one step closer to receiving the name, Gold Star Peak with official approval by the Board of Alaska Geographic Names, Alaska Historical Commission; part of the Department of Natural Resources. The peak will be named to honor and salute families of soldiers who have died during military service.
Nearly 100 people attended a workshop hosted by the Alaska Veterans Museum (AVM) and led by the Veterans History Project (VHP) and the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of the American Indian. Attendees learned techniques for collecting oral histories from Alaska’s veterans and how to submit them to VHP, within the Library of Congress, to ensure the stories are preserved for future generations. Col. (ret) Suellyn Novak serves as the president and director for AVM, which is headquartered in Anchorage. AVM’s mission is to educate, honor and inspire by preserving artifacts and stories from Alaskan veterans. AVM has spearheaded numerous oral history efforts for this reason. The workshop fine-tuned those efforts and provided a clear avenue for those stories to be preserved at the Library of Congress.