Most folks would be surprised at how many of their fellow locals have a background of military service.
So far, the American Legion has identified more than 60 locals who served in a branch of the military at some point in their life and local American Legion post historian Bill McRoberts has put his artistic talent to work honoring them.
McRoberts has compiled information and photos from 64 veterans and completed 54 photo collages that hang in the downstairs of the Legion hall. He said there are veterans from every branch of the military, including Coast Guard. Many of the veterans from Haines served in the Army and were drafted during the Vietnam Era, he said.
McRoberts, a former Army first sergeant, said most veterans don’t talk much about their service, but it is important for the community to know and recognize the many locals that served.
"It’s the fact that they did sacrifice," McRoberts said. "Veterans don’t talk about (their service) because, for them, it’s just a duty for their county. We don’t like being put on a pedestal."
McRoberts makes each collage similar in size and design. He uses photos of the veteran during their service or in uniform and sometimes includes more recent photos. The collage also includes the veteran’s name, rank and branch, but it doesn’t list their commendations or medals.
"We treat all the veterans the same," McRoberts said. "Whether they’re a three-star general or a private."
The collages are gaining attention. His efforts are being written about in the American Legion’s national magazine. He is offering to help other legion posts across the country create similar collages for their local vets by helping train a volunteer who can collect the photos and information, scan the photos and create the background design.
McRoberts said he still expects to hear from more veterans or their families from Haines, and especially from Klukwan. The village sent one of the highest numbers of residents in the country, per capita, off to Vietnam.
The collages hang on the walls of the Legion, downstairs, where they are gaining notice by visitors and patrons.
"They are starting conversations," McRoberts said.