News: Anchorage remembers heroes past, present
Story by Staff Sgt. Matthew Winstead
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Wearing everything from service caps adorned with badges and unit patches from the past and historic uniforms, veterans from as far back as World War II gathered at the Delaney Strip Park in downtown Anchorage, May 28, for the Memorial Day Remembrance Service.
Many of the elderly gentlemen struggle now to stand on their own strength, but it was their ability to stand for what they believed in that helped make this nation what it is today.
Their contributions to the nation were not lost on the officials who attended the ceremony or the hundreds of guests who took a few moments out of their day to bear witness to a gathering of American war heroes who came to remember their fallen comrades.
The remembrance service began in style with a "Rolling Thunder" procession of motorcycles from the Alaska Veterans Motorcycle Club bearing the American flag, the Alaska state flag and the somber black and white POW/MIA flag.
A joint service color guard then presented the colors at the base of the flagpole and classically trained singer Victor Frasier, who lost her brother in combat, sang the national anthem.
Guest representatives from the Army and Air Force requested that the honored WWII veterans step forward for recognition of their service.
U.S. Army Alaska Commander Maj. Gen. Michael X. Garrett presented "Defender of Freedom" medals to the veterans.
Garrett presented the first medal to William D. Dudley, a former PT boat crew member in World War II, who was quick to turn the praise to current service members and their endeavors overseas.
"I just really feel for the boys at war right now," Dudley said. "They have to deal with things we simply didn't have to worry about back in the day."
It was an expression of humility that caused several of the people within earshot to shed tears.
With so many honored veterans present, Garrett was assisted in his task by Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell; Brig. Gen. Deborah McManus, Alaska National Guard Director of Joint Staff; Brig. Gen. Leon "Mike" Bridges, Assistant Adjutant General of the Alaska National Guard; retired Brig. Gen. Richard M. Blunt, of Military Professional Readiness Inc.
Representatives from the motorcycle club took the stage to assemble a soldier's memorial consisting of a rifle, helmet, boots, identification tags and roses in memory of the fallen soldiers as one of their members softly sang "Amazing Grace".
In his remarks, Blunt pointed out the World War II history of Alaska, where the only land battles fought on American soil in World War II took place on the Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska.
Garrett and McManus presented a wreath in honor of all veterans leading a procession of additional groups and service organizations who offered wreaths of their own.
The service closed with a dual bugle rendition of taps and the joint color guard retired the colors for the event.
About 100 World War II veterans attended the ceremony along with their families and friends. Veterans from other wars and time periods also came to show their respect for the heroes who preceded them in service.
"Everyone here is a hero." Blunt said.