by Greg Lincoln
Quyana to all the Veterans on this special day when we honor and remember the men and women who continue to sacrifice on our behalf for the freedoms that we enjoy today. On this day, the Bethel Regional High School JROTC honored members of the National Guard, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and the Merchant Marines.
After the posting of the colors by the esteemed BRHS Color Guard, the Warrior Choir performed for the veterans and those in attendance the singing of the National Anthem with piano accompaniment courtesy of acclaimed music instructor Gregory Carlson.
Emceeing the event was JROTC Battalion Commander Rachel Chakuchin who invited all members of each branch of the military to come forth to be recognized. The BRHS band played the military song for each group and every member was given a shirt signifying Veteran status.
Given special recognition were all the members who served in the Alaska Territorial Guard. There are not many left but just a few. All family members were invited to stand in place of their beloved ATG members. One ATG member stood in great honor. Billy McCann of Bethel served on the Alaska Territorial Guard and was given a standing ovation.
During the ceremony, all fallen soldiers were commemorated with the Battle Cross.
“A rifle pointing downwards into the ground is a memorial of a soldier killed in action. Often the rifle is capped by a helmet and perhaps dog tags, and at the bottom, a pair of boots to represent the final march of the last battle – items the soldier has no further need for,” said Commander Chakuchin. “Sometimes the rifle pierces the ground with a fixed bayonet, defiantly symbolizing that the soldier went down fighting.”
In western Belgium, there is a place called the Field of Flanders where most of the fighting took place during World War I. In this field the red poppy flower grows in abundance. Red poppy flowers were given to those in attendance as they entered the gym to symbolize the Day of Remembrance.
“On November 11, 1918 at 11am, the last shot of this war was fired and peace declared. The Red Poppies that grow in full bloom above the dead in the fields of Flanders, where the brave soldiers sacrificed their blood and life for their own countries, seem to be symbolic of the belief that the blood of heroes never dies,” Chakuchin said.
A reading of the poem In Flander’s Field was followed by Taps played by Kimberly Typpo on the cornet.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10041 members presented awards to two outstanding citizens for their unselfish contributions.
“They have gone above and beyond helping those in need in the YK delta,” said VFW Post Commander Henry Hunter.
Receiving the awards were Craig Rogers for his many years of service with the establishment of the Bethel ATG Park and to the Bethel Search and Rescue’s President Mike Riley for his work in helping finding those who are lost and bringing them back to their families.
Given special appreciation by the VFW Post members was David Trantham Jr. who served during World War II. Mr. Trantham was in Anchorage receiving the Governor’s Veteran’s Advocacy Award.
Mr. Trantham works continually on behalf of Alaska’s veterans. He has led the efforts throughout the years to develop a veterans cemetery in Bethel and in creating the Alaska Territorial Guard Memorial Park as a tribute to the more than 1,000 Alaska Territorial Guard members who protected Alaska during World War II. Mr. Trantham has given his service in the Army, Air Force and the Alaska Army National Guard.
“I don’t know anyone better who deserves it more,” said VFW Post Member Buck Bukowski. Congratulations to Mr. Trantham, we honor you and all veterans on this day, quyana.