Each year, we look forward to Memorial Day Weekend, especially in Homer. Traditionally, it’s a time to plant our flowers, start our gardens and let our sore eyes soak in the warm blue sky and the new, comforting green of the deciduous trees.
We may have to wait a few more weeks before summer makes its way to Homer due to the unseasonably cold weather we’ve been having. But we know it will eventually come. And in spite of the cold, many will still barbecue, go fishing and enjoy the outdoors on this legal holiday; as well we should. But let’s remember why we have this federal holiday.
Memorial Day is a day on which those who died in active military service are remembered and commemorated. It is also the day that red poppies are worn on lapels and the American flag flies proudly on doorsteps.
This month is also the “70th anniversary of the Battle of Attu, May 11 – 29, 1943. This, the only land battle on the 50 states during WWII, that took place on a refuge,” says Poppy Benson, Public Programs Supervisor of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.
“Attu has been refuge since 1913. It was considered the second deadliest battle of the Pacific Theater (Iwo Jima the first).”
According to research, the exact number of deaths from that battle is uncertain, but is believed to be at 549, with 1,148 wounded and 2,100 injured due to cold and shell shock.
The Battle of Attu is not as well-known as the Pearl Harbor attack, although more men died in the Aleutians.
I encourage everyone to visit the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center auditorium this Memorial Day weekend, to view photographs mounted on the wall of the battle at Kiska. Each photo has tags explaining this historical event.
Islands and Ocean will be showing free World War II films all day in remembrance of the troops’ courage and sacrifice during the Aleutian Campaign.
The schedule is as follows, beginning May 24 through May 28 in the auditorium:
11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Alaska at War
1 p.m. – 1:50 p.m. Alaska’s Bloodiest Battle
2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Aleut Story
3:45 p.m. – 4:45 p.m. Alaska at War
Poppy Benson will also give a talk on Wednesday at 1 p.m. about World War II in the Aleutians. The visitor center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located at 95 Sterling Highway.
Have a safe and happy Memorial Day from the staff at the Homer Tribune.
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