53rd Anniversary Military Appreciation Banquet takes place on Aug. 24

Published: Aug. 24, 2023 at 7:50 AM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - On Thursday, Aug. 24, the 53rd Anniversary Military Appreciation Banquet will take place at the Carlson Center, where a small group of men and women serving as soldiers or civilians in the military will be honored.

The Military Appreciation Banquet is an opportunity for the community to show gratitude towards those that serve in the military. Thanking both soldiers and civilians for all they do to keep the nation safe as well as our home in the interior of Alaska.

The banquet is a tradition that began in the 1960′s with Jim Messer, a veteran himself, and his wife Rosemary. During the early years, the Messers hosted dinners in their home to show their gratitude to the service members stationed in the golden heart community. As time went on, their in home dinner became a banquet hosting over 600 people.

The coordinator of the banquet this year is leading the effort for the first time and she said she wants to keep the tradition of the banquet to its highest standard. “I’ve been working on this since March,” said Elora Swan-Song, the event coordinator. “It’s been a long time, but getting everybody put together and making sure that everything involved comes together well,” was important for Swan-Song.

As a part of the tradition, the Army, Air Force and civilian employees are all honored for the roles they play in protecting our country and community. This year, there are four members of the 11th Airborne Division from Ft. Wainwright being honored. “I think it’s a good feeling, but also humbling feeling that over the past seven years I’ve been in the Army, nothing’s ever happened to me like this, so it makes me feel like all of this is worth it,” said Staff Sgt. Melissa Liberty, one of the honorees from Ft. Wainwright. She’s joined by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Calvin Christian, 1st Lt. Corey Leszczynski and Staff Sgt. Dougla Lanning.

From the Air Force, two wings will have members honored. From the 168th wing, Technical Sgt. Lndsey Thomson and Master Sgt. Treana Briggs will be honored and from the 354th fighter wing, there’s Senior Airman Sierra Tafoya, Airman First Class Jordan DuBrava and Cpt. Sarah Larson. “It was super impressive to listen through all the awesome things that everyone in this group has been doing and super appreciative and humbled to be a part of that group,” said Larson.

Three civilians will also be honored as volunteers of the year including, Haley Davis, Tiffany Ingraham and Gregory Johnson.

At the banquet, someone will also be honored with the Jim Messer Award. This award goes to a civilian member of the community who has done the most to promote community-military relations, morale or welfare programs.

The event will start at 6 p.m. with keynote speeches from Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Gen. Ken S. Wilsbach.