VA secretary pays tribute to WWII Alaska Native militia

  • By Rachel D'oro
  • Wednesday, August 12, 2015 9:58pm
  • News

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald paid tribute Wednesday to those who served in the Alaska Territorial Guard during World War II.

McDonald addressed seven surviving members of the largely Native citizens militia during a ceremony in the northwest Alaska town of Kotzebue.

Representatives of the event say the veterans attending the ceremony came from Kotzebue and three Alaska Native villages.

In his brief speech, McDonald said he had met earlier with each member attending.

He also presented them with Department of Veterans Affairs “challenge coins.” McDonald said the coins are a military tradition to present to soldiers for deeds well done.

“This is my way of recognizing every one of the ATG members, thanking them for their service to our country,” he said.

Alaska was still 17 years away from statehood when the 6,400-member militia was formed in 1942 to defend the vast territory from the threat of Japanese invasion.

The unit was activated after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and points along Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.

The volunteer militia members, nicknamed Uncle Sam’s Men and Eskimo Scouts, stepped in to watch over the 586,000-square-mile territory, which was vulnerable to further attack with the Alaska National Guard already pressed into federal service.

The militia disbanded with little fanfare in March 1947, almost two years after the war ended. Members of the militia weren’t formally recognized by the Army as U.S. military veterans until 2004.

In 2009, the pensions of 26 elderly militia veterans were temporarily reduced because of a new interpretation of a law passed earlier by Congress that had recognized the territorial guard service as federal active duty.

At the time, the Defense Department said an analysis of the law determined the service no longer counted toward the military’s 20-year minimum for retirement pay. Later that year, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she prodded the Pentagon to implement language in the National Defense Authorization Act directing the military to count service in the territorial guard during World War II.

Percy Ballot attended Wednesday’s event with his uncle, Johnnie Ticket Sr. of Selawik, whom he said is in his late 80s. Ticket was not available to comment, but Ballot said his uncle was happy about the ceremony, showing it by his smiles.

“It was real good to see what they did in the past to be recognized by people,” Ballot said. “Not only good, but it was great.”

 

More in News

The Alaska State Capitol is seen on Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Legislature modernizes 40-year-old definition of consent in sexual assault cases

‘Alaska took a gargantuan step forward in updating our laws,’ says deputy attorney general

Project stakeholders cut a ribbon at the Nikiski Shelter of Hope on Friday, May 20, 2022, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Stakeholders celebrate opening of Nikiski shelter

The shelter officially opened last December

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks with reporters Thursday about the state’s budget at the Alaska State Capitol. Dunleavy said lawmakers had sent a complete budget, and that there was no need for a special session.
Dunleavy: No need for special session

Governor calls budget “complete”

A magnet promoting the Alaska Reads Act released sits atop a stack of Alaskan-authored and Alaska-centric books. Lawmakers passed the Alaska Reads Act on the last day of the legislative session, but several members of the House of Representatives were upset with the bill, and the way it was passed. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
In last-minute move, Legislature passes early reading overhaul

Rural lawmakers push back on Alaska Reads Act

Graduates wait to receive diplomas during Connections Homeschool’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 19, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Connections honors more than 100 graduates

The home-school program held a ceremony Thursday in Soldotna

Alaska Senate President Peter Micciche, left, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, right, meet with reporters in Micciche’s office in the early morning hours of Thursday, May 19, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska, after the Legislature ended its regular session. Micciche, a Republican, and Begich, a Democrat, discussed their working relationship, as well as well as parts of the session they were either pleased with or disappointed with. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
After House balks at bigger figure, budget OK’d with $3,200 payout per Alaskan

Budget finishes as second-largest in state history by one measure, but Dunleavy could make cuts

Loren Reese, principal at Kenai Alternative High School, gives Oliver Larrow the Mr. Fix It award Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at Kenai Alternative High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Alternative graduates 22, says goodbye to principal

The ceremony included special awards customized for students

Graduates throw their caps into the air at the end of Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Wednesday, May 18, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘We never fell down’

Soldotna High School honors more than 100 graduates

Brandi Harbaugh gives a presentation during a joint work session on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Mill rate decrease, max school funding included in proposed borough budget

The final document is subject to approval by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly

Most Read