Appreciation luncheon honors USCG

NVE’s fourth annual celebration offers recognition, community interaction

Red, white and blue decorations on each table at the Little Chapel welcomed service members, families and the community on Sept. 14 to the Native Village of Eyak’s fourth annual U.S. Coast Guard Appreciation Luncheon.

The patriotic color theme extended to Diane Ujioka’s cakes, glistening in sunlight seeping through the windows, with blue and red berries accenting fluffy white frosting.

Crews from the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Cordova and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sycamore were honored at the event, which had guardsmen cheering and clapping as names were drawn periodically in a raffle for prizes donated by the community and businesses.

Guard members were also given certificates of appreciation from Cordova District Fishermen United, in thanks from the fleet, especially for their aid in search and rescue and navigation.

For the Sycamore’s Chief Electricians Mate Donald Ladd, returning home to Cordova offers a way to help the community he was raised in.

Ladd has been a member of the Coast Guard for nearly 14 years, starting his career in Seattle and returning to serve in Cordova in 2011. After his billet was up, he left in 2014 to serve in Alameda, CA and San Juan, Puerto Rico. He returned this summer to serve another three-year billet in Cordova.

Belen Cook, coordinator for NVE’s Sobriety Celebration and wellbeing, served as emcee for the luncheon.

“That’s awesome and you’re homegrown too!” she said laughing as Ladd approached the front with a winning raffle ticket, to collect gifts including a gift certificate from local food truck, Homegrown.

“…To see that appreciation; the love that the town does have for … Coast Guard and the support that’s here, that’s really neat to see,” Ladd said.

Sarah Kathrein, the judicial systems administrator for NVE, was the luncheon’s event organizer for the third consecutive year.

“If I had to host an event for NVE, this is the event I’d want to host,” she said. “We always try to have it as close to Aug. 4 as possible because that’s the Coast Guard’s birthday.”

Event planning began in July, which kept her busy seeking donations and collaborating on food and decorations, and more.

“I think it’s actually just nice to give the Coast Guard the nod that they deserve in this community,” Kathrein said. “They have an impact on every aspect of the community and I think that we sometimes forget that. Cordova wouldn’t be the same without them here.”

Tribal Council Chairman Darrel Olsen presented Lt. Cmdr Collin Bronson, commander of the Sycamore, with a Native Village of Eyak flag, the first of its kind.

Shyla Krukoff gave a brief language lesson for the group of roughly 115, explaining how to say Coast Guard in Sugpiaq.

“Imam Teggiistai,” she said slowly, repeating the pronunciation a few times. People in the audience listened intently and repeated the words back to her.

The word, pronounced, Ee-mum teg-gee-st-ai, was created just six weeks prior by a group of elders.

Imam means “ocean” while Teggiistai could possibly mean “watch over,” Krukoff said.

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Emily Mesner is a staff reporter and photographer for The Cordova Times. Reach her at Emily graduated from Central Michigan University, earning a degree in photojournalism with a cultural competency certificate. She first visited Alaska in 2016, working as a media intern for the National Park Service in Kotzebue and Denali National Park and Preserve, and has been coming back ever since. To see more photos, follow @thecordovatimes and @emilymesnerphoto on Instagram.