News: Alaskans recognize past and present Guardsmen across the state
Story by Sgt. Balinda O'Neal
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - From Fairbanks to Juneau, Alaskans gathered to celebrate and recognize the remarkable efforts of their past and present National Guardsmen.
Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell signed House Bill 247 on April 30, 2012, establishing Alaska National Guard Day on July 30 of each year to honor the men and women of the Alaska National Guard.
The governor’s proclamation reads: “On this day, and throughout the year, we recognize the incredible efforts of past and present Alaska National Guard members and thank them for the sacrifices they make daily and have made in defending our freedoms and ensuring our security.”
“I am honored to lead the courageous men and women who serve in our Alaska National Guard,” Parnell said. “Today, Alaska National Guard Day, we honor you and your families and say a profound thank you for all you are, and for all you do.”
For more than 75 years, the Alaska National Guard has defended our nation and state.
Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Katkus, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard, hosted two ceremonies at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and one at Eielson Air Force Base on Wednesday for AKNG members, alumni and retirees.
“As the adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard for both Air and Army, I personally thank each and every one of you on this day of recognition for your great service,” said Katkus during a ceremony on JBER.
“This is a day when we can sincerely thank every member of our more than 4,000 currently serving members in uniform and the unknown thousands of National Guardsmen in this state who have fulfilled the requirements of the past and present military,” Katkus said. “They have put us in the great position that we are in now.”
The Guard first rendered invaluable service in World War II as the Alaska Territorial Guard, and has since mobilized and deployed troops to the Middle East, Africa and West Asia in support of the War on Terror.
“As the Alaska National Guard, we are the go-to people when it comes to defending our nation, but most importantly for our state mission,” explained Katkus. “We don’t get called upon very often because our communities our prepared, but when we are called, we will be there with the right equipment, people and will be the last people standing to answer the call.”
After the reading of the governor’s proclamation and remarks from leadership, past and present Guardsmen joined together to view static displays, tour aircraft and reminisce on days of new and old.
“As the saying goes, when you love your job, it’s like you never worked a day in your life,” said Rex Barnes, a retired member of the 168th Air Refueling Wing who attended Alaska National Guard Day at Eielson Air Force Base.