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JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — A World War II veteran and former Alaska Army National Guard member recently became a Tribal Veteran Representative (TVR), trained to assist fellow veterans secure state and federal benefits.
Wesley Aiken, of Barrow, Alaska, voluntarily joined the Alaska Territorial Guard (ATG) in April 1943. During WWII, over 6,400 Alaskans joined the ATG to serve as local components of the U.S. Army in response to the occupation of parts of Alaska by enemy forces. It wasn’t until the year 2000 that the members of the ATG were eligible for official U.S. Army discharges, recognizing them as veterans.
After Aiken’s ATG service, he joined the Alaska Army National Guard and served from 1953 – 1970.
Earlier this month, the Alaska VA Healthcare System offered a Tribal Veteran Representative Training program in Barrow. The VA in partnership with others, including the Alaska State Office of Veterans Affairs, trains citizens in communities across Alaska as volunteers to serve as a “boots on the ground” citizen corps, assisting veterans in receiving any and all benefits due to them. There are over 300 TVR’s trained across the State, with 13 graduating from the class in Barrow.
“Mr. Aiken asked to be trained and successfully completed the course”, said Phillip Hokenson, outreach specialist with the Alaska VA Healthcare System – Office of Rural Health, and member of the Alaska Veterans Advisory Council. “It was an incredible opportunity and an honor to have an ATG member among the trainees. The ATG and application for discharge process is part of the training program so to have an ATG member in the course underscored the importance of recognizing their service to this country and great contribution to Alaska’s history.”
“When veterans raise their hand to serve, they tend to continue that service long after leaving the military”, said Verdie Bowen, director of the State Office of Veterans Affairs. “Wesley Aiken is truly the model of this continuing service”.
TVR candidates are selected by leaders in their communities. Those interested in becoming a TVR, please contact Phillip Hokenson at 907-361-5242 or contact the State Office of Veterans Affairs at 907-334-0874.
Source: Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs