House Democratic Leader Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage) Tuesday encouraged Alaskans to join the Democratic caucus in observing Alaska National Guard Appreciation Day, Wednesday, July 30, 2014.
“The men and women of the Alaska National Guard (ANG) stand watch for us all 24 hours a day,” Tuck said. “They are our co-workers, professional colleagues, friends, and neighbors. I hope we’ll all take a moment Wednesday to say ‘thank you.’ We truly appreciate their service.”
Since before World War II, the Alaska National Guard has been on the front lines, defending Alaskans from overseas threats and natural disasters alike. More than 60 years ago, the Alaska Territorial Guard (ATG) protected Alaska’s coastline with tenacity and distinction. Offering a courageous response to the call to arms in the face of foreign invasion, volunteers of all ages and from all walks of life “from Metlakatla to Barrow” provided vital Alaska expertise in winning a decisive victory for the U.S. in the difficult Aleutian theater. ANG members today continue that proud tradition, defending freedom in far-flung locations including Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait, as well as responding to emergencies here at home.
Rep. Max Gruenberg (D-Anchorage, House Democratic Whip, member of the House Special Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs and the House Finance Subcommittee on Military and Veterans Affairs, and a U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran) joined in recognizing the service, sacrifice, and dedication of the more than 4,000 Alaskans standing ready to respond to a wide variety of situations. “The Guard helps us dig out after massive snowfalls, keeps us safe during floods and forest fires, engages in search and rescue missions, helps stem the flow of illegal drugs, and preserves vital services and public safety during emergencies,” Gruenberg said. “It is important that we publicly recognize their vital service and say ‘thank you.’”
“The ANG is extremely important to the health of Alaska’s economy,” Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks, and a member of the House Finance Subcommittee on Military and Veterans Affairs) said. “Guard Members are valuable citizens who serve the state in both their civilian capacities and Guard duties. I was humbled to honor the ANG’s pioneering forefathers, the ATG, by securing funding for bronze statues commemorating their service during World War II.”
The ATG disbanded in 1947, and the ANG was formally recognized in 1948. In 2000, U.S. Senator Ted Stevens won passage of his bill granting full veteran status to ATG members. A photograph of Rep. Kawasaki with the ATG commemorative statue in Nome is attached.
So far this year, Guard Members have rescued a snowmachiner near Koliganek, three snowmobilers stuck in the Talkeetna Mountains, five hikers near Valdez, and a wilderness rafter on the Kobuk River. Just this week, a Guard rescue team safely transported a pregnant woman suffering complications from Nulato to Anchorage for medical treatment, and about 20 ANG Members deployed to the Horn of Africa, relieving 25 ANG troops in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“We honor all Guardsmen and Guardswomen, and celebrate the ever-expanding role of women in the Guard,” Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage, and a member of the Alaska Legislature’s Joint Armed Services Committee) said. “High-ranking female leaders such as Brigadier General Catherine Jorgenson, Brig. Gen. Sharon Dieffenderfer, Command Sergeant Major Pamela Harrington, and Brig. Gen. Deborah McManus (Ret.), shine a bright light on the positive path for Alaska women seeking a career of service to their fellow Alaskans.”
“The Alaska National Guard is always ready and always there for us,” Tuck said. “Every Alaskan should take time to thank Guardsmen and Guardswomen on this special day, with additional thanks to the progressive, civic-minded employers who make it possible for their workers to participate in Guard activities.”