World War II veterans to be featured in Park Strip ceremony

Mike Dunham

Surviving World War II veterans will be honored as part of Memorial Day observances on Monday. The Staff Sgt. Archie Van Winkle Memorial Chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association will host a service at 3 p.m. on the Park Strip at the Veterans Memorial, west of I Street between Ninth and 10th avenues.

This year the event will note the 70th anniversary of the attack on Dutch Harbor, in which Japanese planes bombed American facilities on Unalaska Island on June 3 and 4, 1942.

Because of that anniversary, a number of World War II veterans will attend to be recognized and given the "Defender of Freedom" medal. Organizers say the oldest is 101 and the youngest are in their 80s. A portion of 10th Avenue will be closed for parking for veterans.

The event will open with delivery of the colors by the Alaska Vets Motorcycle Club of Anchorage in a "Rolling Thunder" ceremony. Three active generals will be on hand: Michael X. Garrett, Deborah McManus and Leon M. Bridges. Retired Gen. Richard Blunt will deliver a keynote address recounting Alaska's role in World War II.

The event will include dedication of a new plaque listing the names of Alaska military personnel who have died since Sept. 11, 2001. Family members of some will attend as special guests. Soprano Victoria Fraser of Anchorage, whose brother, Marine Lance Cpl. Grant Fraser, was killed in Iraq, will sing the national anthem.

The ceremony includes recognition of 21 Alaska-based active duty military members who died in the past year. Most were combat deaths, but not all. Organizers said their list will include Senior Airman Clinton Reeves, whose body was found in Eagle River this month and who is presumed to have been murdered.

The contributions of Vietnam veterans will be highlighted nationally this year. In a press release, the White House has announced that this Memorial Day will mark the beginning of the nationwide commemoration of the Vietnam War's 50th anniversary. A 13-year program of events and activities will be coordinated by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the National Park Service and the Department of Defense.

Anchorage Daily News