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VO's Caitlin Steinberg In Alaska - Entry #1
This summer, Veterans’ Outreach staff writer, Caitlin Steinberg, has taken a seasonal position on a traveling rural education team. Periodically throughout the summer months, Caitlin will check in with the VO, writing about the deep bonds between the Alaskan people, volunteerism, and their land as well as the inherent pride all Alaskans have for their state- the final frontier.
I sit with my “rural team,” our long day of training and lesson plans has come to a close. We are camped outside of Wasilla on Three Mile Lake, spending the week getting to know the land, people, and customs of rural Alaska before separating and journeying to different ends of the state. Some will travel by ferry, some by plane. As team of six, four of us will spend the summer in the south western bush, traveling through Yup’ik villages while two of us, myself included, will teach throughout the southeastern panhandle- focusing on native Alaskan and fishing villages.
When I was first offered this amazing opportunity to teach young, rural Alaskan girls throughout the summer, I was honored. Immediately, I set out to find a way to continue working with Veterans’ Outreach, a non-profit I have grown to love and respect, while taking on this new, adventurous challenge.
photo: sunset on Three Mile Lake outside of Wasilla, AK
A little bit of Alaskan history--
Added as a territory in 1867 and a state in 1955, Alaska’s history with the United States Military began in the mid-nineteenth century. With the occupation of the Aleutian Islands by the Japanese in 1942, there has been a consistent United States Military presence in the state. With bases Forts Richardson and Wainwright as well as Elmendorf AFB among others, there are approximately 24,000 active military personnel stationed in Alaska and the highest number of veterans per capita.
As I will be stationed in the southeast, I will be surrounded by the United States Coast Guard. Most of my students, in fact, will have a strong connection to the military and have become familiar with saying goodbye to family members serving abroad.
At first there seemed to be few direct connection between teaching young girls and helping America’s veterans, but when I stepped back and better examined the social dynamics of rural Alaska, I found one common principle- gratitude.
All for one, one for all. Each member of rural Alaskan villages plays an integral part, contributing to the welfare and health of the group. Marriages between neighboring villages and trade relations bring together groups of people, creating a web of connections. When one villager falls ill, the others pick up the slack- if not out of necessity then out of compassion. Villagers go out of their way to help those in need and are beyond thankful when given aid. Instantly, I was reminded of our work at Veterans’ Outreach.
other photos and tidbits from Caitlin's summer position can be found HERE
photo: U.S. Coast Guard stationed in Seward, AK
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