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Anchorage remembers heroes
Victoria Fraser sings the national anthem at a Memorial Day ceremony Monday in Anchorage, alongside Berkley Ide, commander of the Staff Sgt. Archie Van Winkle Memorial Chapter 288 of the Korean War Veterans Association, and Brig. Gen. Leon “Mike” Bridges, assistant adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard. Fraser’s brother died in 2005 while serving overseas. (U.S. Army photo/Staff Sgt. Matthew E. Winstead)
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Anchorage remembers heroes

Posted 6/4/2012   Updated 6/4/2012 Email story   Print story


by Army Staff Sgt. Matthew E. Winstead
U.S. Army Alaska Public Affairs

6/4/2012 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, 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 Monday 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 Victoria Frasier, who lost her brother in combat, sang the national anthem.

Guest representatives from the Army and Air Force requested the honored World War II veterans stepped forward for recognition of their service.

U.S. Army Alaska Commanding General Maj. Gen. Michael Garrett presented "Defender of Freedom" medals to the veterans.

Garrett presented the first medal to William Dudley, a former PT boat crewmember 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; Air Force Brig. Gen. Deborah McManus, Alaska National Guard director of Joint Staff, Army Brig. Gen. Leon "Mike" Bridges, Assistant Adjutant General of the Alaska National Guard; and retired Army Brig. Gen. Richard M. Blunt.

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 the war 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 WWII veterans attended the ceremony along with their families and friends. Veterans from other wars also came to show their respect for the heroes who preceded them in service.

"Everyone here is a hero." Blunt said.

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