Community editor and columnist Kris Capps is a longtime resident of Fairbanks and Denali Park. Contact her at kcapps@newsminer.com, in the office at 459-7546 or by cell at 322-6334. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.

Fallen Heroes Memorial Ceremony

A row of wreaths honoring the six Fallen Heroes being honored at this year's event are on display during the 3rd Annual Fallen Heroes Memorial Ceremony Saturday morning, July 27, 2019 at the Trooper Gabe Rich and Trooper Scott Johnson Memorial Park in North Pole. The six new names were added to the memorial wall for this year's service, as a crowd of friends, family, service and community members gathered to honor them and pay their respects.

Fallen Heroes Memorial Ceremony

James LaBelle, facing camera, is hugged after the service during the 3rd Annual Fallen Heroes Memorial Ceremony Saturday morning, July 27, 2019 at the Trooper Gabe Rich and Trooper Scott Johnson Memorial Park in North Pole. LaBelle, who lives in Anchorage, was at the event to honor his younger brother PFC Kermit H. LaBelle Jr., who was in the Army and lost his life serving in Vietnam. PFC LaBelle is memorialized with a plaque and was one of six new names added to the memorial wall for this year's service. "Tomorrow is the 52nd anniversary of his death. I thought this was a really appropriate time," LaBelle said of his younger brother, adding that he honored him by naming his first born son after him. A crowd of friends, family, service and community members gathered to honor the Fallen Heroes and pay their respects.

Today is the 52nd anniversary of the death of PFC Kermit H. LaBelle Jr., who was killed in Vietnam just 41 days before he was due to end his military tour there.

His name and the names of five other honorees have been added to the wall at the Trooper Gabe Rich and Trooper Scott Johnson Memorial Park in North Pole.

The newly added fallen heroes are Battalion Chief Philip E. Rounds, of the UAF Fire Department; Pfc. Gilbert Ketzler Jr., U.S. Army; Staff Sgt. Steven J. Wengelewski Jr., U.S. Army; Sgt. 1st Class Johnathan B. McCain, U.S. Army; Chief Warrant Officer Wayne E. Jones, U.S. Army, and Pfc. Kermit H. LaBelle Jr., U.S. Army.

Fallen Heroes Memorial Ceremony

Members of the Alaska Native Veterans Association salute during the 3rd Annual Fallen Heroes Memorial Ceremony Saturday morning, July 27, 2019 at the Trooper Gabe Rich and Trooper Scott Johnson Memorial Park in North Pole. Six new names were added to the memorial wall for this year's service, as a crowd of friends, family, service and community members gathered to honor them and pay their respects.

A large crowd gathered Saturday for the Third annual Fallen Heroes Ceremony. This is a tribute to residents of the Fairbanks North Star Borough who have given their lives while performing official duties serving their country, state or communities.

“It’s really an appropriate time,” said LaBelle’s older brother James LaBelle, who remembers getting leave from the U.S. Navy in 1967 to serve as honor guard, accompanying his brother’s body back to Fairbanks. Anti-war protesters hollered at him at stops along the journey. Luckily, he said, he was too numb to pay much attention. He and his wife attended the local ceremony and also visited his brother’s gravestone at Birch Hill Cemetery.

Fallen Heroes Memorial Ceremony

White roses are held during the 3rd Annual Fallen Heroes Memorial Ceremony Saturday morning, July 27, 2019 at the Trooper Gabe Rich and Trooper Scott Johnson Memorial Park in North Pole. Six new names were added to the memorial wall for this year's service, as a crowd of friends, family, service and community members gathered to honor them and pay their respects.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy greeted the gathering and praised the two Alaska State Troopers, killed in the line of duty, for whom the memorial is named.

Fallen Heroes Memorial Ceremony

The North Pole High School Air Force JROTC Color Guard presents the Colors during the 3rd Annual Fallen Heroes Memorial Ceremony Saturday morning, July 27, 2019 at the Trooper Gabe Rich and Trooper Scott Johnson Memorial Park in North Pole. Six new names were added to the memorial wall for this year's service, as a crowd of friends, family, service and community members gathered to honor them and pay their respects.

Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Bryce Ward declared July 27 Fallen Heroes Day, in a proclamation he signed along with Fairbanks city Mayor Jim Matherly and North Pole Mayor Michael Welch.

“This day provides an opportunity for all citizens of the Fairbanks North Star Borough to take time to show respect and appreciation for the brave men and women who risked their lives each day when they report to work,” the proclamation states.

Each new honoree was named and brief biography given. One or two family members then approached the wall to quietly and respectfully leave a white rose. Some offered salutes.

Fallen Heroes Memorial Ceremony

An attendee scans a QR code on the plaque of SSG Steven J. Wengelewski Jr. during the 3rd Annual Fallen Heroes Memorial Ceremony Saturday morning, July 27, 2019 at the Trooper Gabe Rich and Trooper Scott Johnson Memorial Park in North Pole. The codes on the plaques can be scanned to access the biographies of those named on the plaques. Six new names were added to the memorial wall for this year's service, as a crowd of friends, family, service and community members gathered to honor them and pay their respects.

Each plaque displays the honoree’s name, date of death (known as End of Watch) and also includes a QR code. A smartphone held up to that code can download the biography of the honoree.

North Pole Mayor Michael Welch encouraged audience members to turn their focus to that little dash between date of birth and date of death.

“That represents their entire life,” he said. “Happiness, sorrow, success and accomplishments.”

Welch had a surprise for families whose loved ones died in Vietnam — a rubbing of the fallen hero’s name from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Wayne A. Jones has worked as a volunteer at the memorial In Washington, D.C. He made rubbings of soldiers’ names who were from the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

Mayor Welch is now working to locate the families.

Jones’ father was one of the honorees on Sunday and although he is out of state, he was delighted that some of his Alaska family members were able to attend.

“It’s nice to know that somebody still cares., he said.

That sentiment was echoed by family members of other honorees.

Fallen Heroes Memorial Ceremony

"I'll see you soon," 90-year old Edwin Jones says while gazing at the plaque bearing the name of his younger brother CWO Wayne E. Jones on the memorial wall during the 3rd Annual Fallen Heroes Memorial Ceremony Saturday morning, July 27, 2019 at the Trooper Gabe Rich and Trooper Scott Johnson Memorial Park in North Pole. Six new names were added to the memorial wall for this year's service, as a crowd of friends, family, service and community members gathered to honor them and pay their respects.

When Chief Warrant Officer Wayne E. Jones’ name was announced, his older brother Edwin Jones, 90, of Fairbanks walked to the wall, laid down a rose and whispered, “I’ll see you soon.”

A 21-gun salute followed.

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at kcapps@newsminer.com. Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter :@FDNMKris.

Locations