Twelve flags surround the Southeast Alaska Native Veterans Memorial Park totem pole in honor of the 12 Southeast Alaskan servicemen who lost their lives serving their nation. The flags were placed by Alaska Native veterans during Monday's Memorial Day service.

Twelve flags surround the Southeast Alaska Native Veterans Memorial Park totem pole in honor of the 12 Southeast Alaskan servicemen who lost their lives serving their nation. The flags were placed by Alaska Native veterans during Monday's Memorial Day service.

Fallen servicemen remembered for their ‘ultimate sacrifice’

Veterans wore service patches on their jackets beside regalia from their respective clans during the Southeast Alaska Native Veterans Memorial Day service on Monday.

Nearly 100 community members came out to the Southeast Alaska Native Veterans Memorial Park in the Willoughby District to honor the lives of 12 servicemen from the region who lost their lives serving their nation.

It was a cold ceremony interrupted by rain, but Richard Peterson, president of the Central Council of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, said sitting in the rain was a small sacrifice to pay in comparison to what others have given.

“It sounds like a cliche thing to say, but it’s true — they paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Peterson said, adding that it is especially important to remember the Native community on Memorial Day considering the rate at which they have served this country.

Alaska Natives and American Indians have the highest rate of military service during the past 200 years of any ethnic group per capita in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

During Monday’s ceremony hosted by the Southeast Alaska Native Veterans group, 12 servicemen from across Southeast Alaska were recognized for their ultimate sacrifice. Their names were read aloud during roll call, then, symbolically, Commander William “Ozzie” Sheakley sent their names into a bentwood box beneath the Memorial Park’s totem pole.

“Now their names are going into the box to be protected by Eagle and by Raven,” Sheakley said.

Sheakley said he organizes the Southeast Alaska Memorial Day service each year, but he never knows in advance who will show up or if anyone will show up at all. Without him asking, each year veterans from across Southeast Alaska arrive to honor the fallen soldiers, and this year was no different.

One veteran who didn’t travel far to attend the service, but who has certainly traveled during his own military service, was Col. Pat Carothers. Carothers served during the World War II and in the Korean and Vietnam wars. On Monday, he served his comrades once more by laying a wreath in the Memorial Park.

Peterson said Central Council is working to expand the park that commemorates the lives of lost Southeast Alaska Natives and is currently accepting bids from architects to add benches and other pieces to the area for this time next year when friends and family gather to honor those who died for their freedom.

Here’s the list of Southeast Alaska Natives who died serving their nation:

Clinton A. Cook — Hydaburg

Charles Gamble Jr. ­— Juneau

Donald H. Kito — Petersburg

Norman L. Linley — Craig (Douglas)

Norman F. Ridley — Metlakatla

Ronald A. Greenwald — Hoonah (Mt. Vernon)

Charles E. Brown — Thorne Bay

David D. Brown — Wrangell

Donald W. Sperl — Juneau

William A. Thompson — Ketchikan

Arthur J. Whitney Jr. — Ketchikan

Charlie Johnny, WWII — Hoonah

• Contact reporter Paula Ann Solis at 523-2272 or paula.solis@juneauempire.com.

Related stories:

Alaska Native military service recognized

VA secretary pays tribute to WWII Alaska Native militia

Photo: Southeast Alaska Native Veterans

 

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