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Valley honors veterans Wednesday

Service members Coast Guard Petty Officer Third Class Alexandre Allen, Air Force Staff Sgt. Maxine Rodowicz, Navy Lt. Matt Torres and retired Marine Gunnery Sgt. Dean Paris await their part in last year's wreath ceremony at Garden Cemetery.
Kurt Hildebrand

The Axelson family caught the first glimpse of their future home while skiing at Heavenly. The path that led them to move to Carson Valley involved a tragic struggle memorialized in book and film.

Matthew Axelson joined the U.S. Navy not long after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. A sonar technician, he volunteered for Navy SEAL training.

“When Matt was going through SEAL training,” recalled father Corky Axelson, “Well, I thought the Army was tough, but I could have never made that.”

Corky and Donna Axelson attended their son’s graduation at Coronado in San Diego. The couple now make their home in Genoa.

“They had pictures of what the guys go through in the different phases,” Donna said. “I can’t believe my son is going through all of this. He’s just amazing.”

In June 2005, Matthew Axelson was a member of SEAL Team 10, whose orders were to capture or kill a Taliban leader. Hostile locals revealed Operation Red Wings to the Taliban and the subsequent firefight was detailed in the book and movie “Lone Survivor.”

An effort to rename the Cupertino post office after Matthew passed the House of Representatives in September and is in the Senate.

Douglas County Commissioner John Engels proposed dedicating a street to Axelson in October. County Manager Patrick Cates is reaching out to local developers to see if any will name a new street after Axelson.

“We’re so proud of him and just so happy with the things that have been influenced by his life,” Corky said.

Among those things are the Matthew Axelson Foundation and the Cupertino Veterans Memorial.

Matthew’s brother, Jeff, started Axelson Tactical in honor of his brother. The family lived in the Bay Area, where Matthew was born, until 2013. The decision to expand Axelson Tactical to include firearms prompted Jeff to move operations to Carson Valley and in 2013 Corky and Donna moved to Genoa to help manage the Minden warehouse.

As the business expanded and started to hire employees, Corky and Donna moved on to contributing to their new community.

“I’m not a good retired person,” Donna said. “I needed something to do, and I love teaching.”

While Donna’s in Carson City, Corky is driving a Douglas County School bus.

“One of the real perks is that one of his stops is Minden Elementary where our grandchildren go,” Donna said. “When schools in session, he sees them every day.” Corky also volunteers with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Citizens Patrol.

Gardnerville Elementary School typically hosts an assembly in observation of Veterans Day, but the coronavirus outbreak has discouraged large gatherings.

But that doesn’t mean the Valley’s school children aren’t attuned to the day.

Cub Scout Pack 33 is hosting a flag retirement ceremony 10 a.m. Wednesday at Eastside Memorial Park. Valley residents with U.S. flags that are no longer fit for display are asked to call 702-217-4781 or email boudreause@gmail.com.

Members of the Fleet Reserve Association are hosting their annual Americanism essay contest for seventh-graders through seniors. Essays focusing on the theme “The Bill of Rights and Me” are due by Dec. 1. The national prize is $5,000. For information, contact John Tramell at jptrammell@yahoo.com or 925-207-6889.

More than a dozen Douglas County men have given their lives in combat, starting with Earl F. Jepsen, who was killed in action on Oct. 5, 1917, fighting the Germans in France.

A Wreaths Across America Fundraising tour will take place 1 p.m. Veterans Day at the Garden Cemetery.

Tours are $10 per person. Organizers hope to raise $3,000 to place a holiday wreath on each veterans’ grave.

Local, state and federal offices are closed Wednesday for Veterans Day.