Territorial Guard recognized with memorial in Bethel
Staff Sgt Karima Turner, Alaska National Guard Public Affairs Office
Lt. Col. Emma Thyen, State Command Sgt. Maj. Pamela Harrington and Maj. Wayne Don, all members of the Alaska Army National Guard, admire the bronze Alaska Territorial Guard statue that memorializes the service of the ATG. The statue sits ever watchful, outside the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Bethel, facing 270 degrees in the direction from which the initial threat was seen in the 1940s when Japan attacked the United States.
Alaska Territorial Guard members were remembered and recognized during an ATG Memorial Park dedication ceremony and soldier potluck in Bethel July 2.
A bronze statue of an ATG member now stands, ever watchful, on a pedestal outside the Veterans Memorial Cemetery. It faces 270 degrees in the direction from which the initial threat was seen in the 1940s when Japan attacked the United States.
“The men and women of the Alaska Territorial Guard banded together at high risk to themselves to defend their families and their land and did so without a second thought,” said Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Katkus, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard. “And afterward, they were discarded. Over 65 years later we are still trying to rectify that wrong. Men and women from 11 years old to 80 years old took that risk and served, and today, we get to memorialize that great effort.”
Bethel Mayor Joseph A. Klejka praised the ATG members for their dedication and service to the country, stressing the importance of remembering that service.
“Seven years the ATG kept a vigilant watch over the coast of Alaska, when that threat ended, the soldiers were simply dismissed without recognition of any kind,” Klejka said. “Now, 65 years later, we are able to recognize the service these brave men and women provided to our country. Of 6,000 ATG members, more than 1,500 volunteered from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region — that is a proud legacy that should never be forgotten again.”
Eighty-nine-year-old Gregory Slats Sr., the oldest living ATG member, said he was very thankful to have his and his comrades’ service recognized. The Chevak resident also noted that it’s important to remember all those who died.
Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell presents an Alaska Territorial Guard ball cap to Gregory Slats Sr., 89, the oldest living ATG member, during the ATG Memorial Park dedication in Bethel. Slats, of Chevak, served in the ATG and then in the Alaska Army National Guard for more than 20 years.
“The men who volunteered were too young or too old to be drafted so this is how they served their country,” said Jerry Walton, Department of Military & Veteran Affairs, deputy director of facilities. “They were tasked with a watch of the coast and were the eyes and ears of the nation.”
Because of their strong ties to the ATG and community, Katkus also took a moment to remember the Alaska Army National Guard members from B Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 143rd Infantry Regiment who are currently deployed to Afghanistan in Support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“It’s very important that we make every effort to not only recognize the ATG, but the Alaskans currently serving in Afghanistan,” Katkus said. “Many of those soldiers come from this region and are serving their country proudly as their ancestors did and that sense of pride is carried through our soldiers today.”
In order to fund the memorial, the State of Alaska Office of Veterans Affairs worked to negotiate grants so major communities throughout Alaska could fund ATG memorials.