Valley vets worried about moving Honor Wall
The Veterans Honor Wall in the Mat-Su Valley is facing an uncertain future. A developer bought the land the wall currently sits on, intending to build a 60-bed, 14,000 square foot senior care facility.
It’s something Matanuska-Susitna Borough Deputy Mayor Matthew Beck says the Valley desperately needs.
“Right now in the Valley, the only way they can get that is if they come into Anchorage or leave the state of Alaska,” Beck explained.
The problem is the developer wants to build on the exact land where the wall is located.
The Honor Wall has more than 2,000 names on it, dating back to the Civil War. It’s been a place families can come to remember the sacrifices of their loved ones. But the construction will force the wall to move.
The developer wants to keep it on the same land, just not in the exact same location.
“The company has demonstrated a strong commitment to preserving the integrity of the wall and protecting it,” Beck said.
It’s bittersweet news for John and Hazel Schwulst, for whom the Honor Wall has been a labor of love since they carved the first name more than 20 years ago.
“Ever since the beginning we’ve taken care of it,” Hazel said. “We do the engraving. Not always by ourselves, we’ve had very good help.”
They’ve seen the wall grow in its current location near the Valley visitor’s center, but now they’re worried for the future.
“We know that if it’s taken from where it is, we aren’t sure where it will be put,” John said.
The developer has said he will incorporate the wall into the plans for the facility, and share them with local veterans before moving ahead.
But the Schwulsts are worried the plans won’t meet their needs. Hundreds of people meet at the wall for memorial ceremonies. They need room for parking and for the wall to grow.
“We’re hoping he can but we’re worried about the space they’re going to leave us,” they said of the developer’s plans.
John says the wall needs to be cared for the same way any veteran would be cared for, the way the community would care for a veteran.
“The most important thing is that it has a home,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of homeless veterans. We don’t need a homeless wall too.”
The Schwulsts will have the final say if the developer’s plans to incorporate the wall in the facility design will work. They say best-case scenario, it can stay near where it currently stands.
They do have a backup plan. They’ve been offered space at the Wasilla Memorial Garden, which Hazel says would be a beautiful alternative.