Idaho Falls Airport, veteran sign

Mayor Rebecca Casper introduced a sign honoring veterans in the Idaho Falls Regional Airport on Thursday.

The Idaho Falls Regional Airport on Thursday introduced its latest, patriotic addition: a sign just before the baggage claim area, thanking veterans for their service.

The star-spangled sign came about through a joint effort by the city of Idaho Falls and Idaho National Laboratory to honor veterans as part of the lab’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

At the introduction ceremony Thursday, Mayor Rebecca Casper spoke of Idaho Falls’ history of welcoming veterans over the years, saying that the airport is “key to defense support.”

Navy service members were a mainstay in Idaho Falls from at least the 1950s, Casper said, when the Naval Reactors Facility was founded.

“This community has a love of country, and a love of service,” she said after the sign was unveiled.

Veterans still hold a vital place in the community, said Juan Alvarez, chief operations officer at INL. Alvarez, himself a Navy veteran, said 13% of the lab’s workforce are former or current military members.

The sign, he said, was an extension of the lab’s efforts to support veterans.

“We wanted to find a way to recognize them and their service,” he said via video livestream, as he and leading lab scientist Mitchell Kerman did not attend the event due to COVID-19 safety measures.

Executive Director of the airport Rick Cloutier said the project had been in the works for more than a year.

“It helps welcome veterans. Helps remind us that veterans made a huge sacrifice for our country, and we want to thank them for their service,” he said.

Reporter Kyle Pfannenstiel can be reached at 208-542-6754. Follow him on Twitter: @pfannyyy. He is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.