Assembly Spars Over Bill To Honor Vets

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly grappled with how best to recognize the service of local veterans at its meeting this week.



Supporting veterans is a pretty popular thing to do, politically and culturally.At leastsymbolically. And government bodies adopt resolutions all the time that support this or condemn that, recognize meaningful achievements or commemorate events of the past. And so it wasn’t a question of whether the Borough Assembly should pass a resolution saying it supports local military vets, but rather, what words should be used to convey that support. The trouble started when the bill was still with the legislative committee, chaired by Mako Haggerty.

“There was a little bit of, I guess confusion, for lack of a better word, over the difference between the title and the conclusion of the resolution,” Haggerty said.

The language in this resolution was similar to others like it in its simplicity; that the Assembly wishes to honor the fallen, wounded and decorated vets. But some members took issue with the reasoning behind that resolution. It cited casualty statistics from several American wars, though not all of them. And it included part of a quote from Colin Powell that didn’t set well with Brent Johnson.

“When it comes to Powell’s statement that the only land we’ve ever asked for is enough to bury our dead, that runs smack into the face of some rather tough sledding in history,” Johnson said.

He went on to mention wars with Native American tribes, a war with Mexico and a few others. The point was that the historical information included in the resolution was neither complete, nor necessarily fitting with what the Assembly wanted to do; honor veterans for their service.

“Often times, veterans are sent out under bad circumstances and they still should be honored. And that’s basically what we’re trying to do with this resolution and we should stick to the facts,” said Assembly member Wayne Ogle.

So, an amendment was offered up to remove the offending language and the quote from General Powell. At that point, the bill’s author, Kelly Wolf, who is himself a military parent with a son in the Air Force, weighed in.

“If we’re going to get into surgically removing ‘whereases’ being as they’re just part of the historical document…the question is…this is all about just trying to honor our veterans. I didn’t include a lot of the wars and I did not touch on the American Indian wars because we didn’t even keep casualty reports of how many Indian Americans we killed for land,” he said.

They took that part out, but Assembly president Hal Smalley still thought the resolution was too convoluted and in the end, cast the lone vote against it.

“I like what we did on the amendments. Those were great because it spoke to what we wanted to speak to; honoring out veterans. And to me that’s what it’s all about. The gobbledigook in the body was poorly worded, not fully accurate. And the issue was really, I think, about something in a neighboring community that the Borough shouldn’t really be dealing with, except the appreciation of our veterans,” Smalley said.

Smalley was talking about conflicts with a memorial statue at Lief Hansen Park in Kenai, an issue we’ll be covering later this week.

-Shaylon Cochran/KDLL-