By For the Star
Editor, Lee Revis 

Military appreciation a tradition in Valdez

Event honors local vets and active military personnel from Alaska


Valdez Star photo

Brigadier General Mike Bridges of the Alaska National Guard helped recognize local veterans of the Viet Nam era Saturday during the city's Military Appreciation Weekend. Honored were Don Kochlich and, in the background, Michael Derifield. Stephan Williams Sr., was not present but was also honored.

There were few dry eyes on the Kelsey Dock last Saturday after Mayor Larry Weaver rolled out his list of honorees for the ninth annual Military Appreciation Day.

Local veterans Mike Derifield, Don Koklich and Steve Williams Sr were honored at the behest of Weaver, who chose Viet Nam era servicemen to be recognized at the event.

Brigadier General Mike Bridges – along with over 70 active members of the Alaska National Guard - were on hand for the ceremony, one of many events held to honor Alaska's veterans.

According to the city's website, the event has its roots in the Prince William Sound Charter Boat Association.

"One Valdez member, Ken Larson, started donating free Vet fishing trips in 2005 after returning from a 2004 – 2005 stint with USACE in Iraq as a resident engineer supporting his son's First Cavalry Artillery Unit during Operation Iraq Freedom," the city said. "A few more local charter operators picked up on the idea. In 2007 the City of Valdez and Crowley joined as partners to make Military Appreciation Weekend a formal event. This fantastic event continues to grow each year. Due to its popularity several generous private boat owners have also begun donating their time and boats so the Valdez event can accommodate more very deserving veterans."

The National Guard members honored last week also spent several days in the community doing volunteer work with several organizations.

Events for the community included activities for youngsters Saturday such as canoe jousting on Ruth Pond and large displays from the National Guard that were hands on.

A free community fish fry was also well received by the visiting military and local alike.

Weave said during the ceremony that he was excited to learn that one of his duties as mayor was being able to choose local veterans for recognition for the event – one he takes seriously.

Valdez Star photo

Mayor Larry Weaver (left) recognized Brigadier General Mike Bridges (right) of the Alaska National Guard Saturday during the ceremony recognizing veterans as part of the city-sponsored Military Appreciation weekend.


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