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Alaska Territorial Guard wall of honour dedicated at Bethel's veterans cemetery

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BETHEL, Alaska - A wall of honour celebrating the Alaska Territorial Guard has been completed at Bethel's Alaska Territorial Guard Memorial Park, bringing volunteers one step closer to completion of the veterans cemetery.

Local organizers and state military leaders formally dedicated the wall Friday. The wall lists the names of 1,435 guard members who served from 31 Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta villages, KYUK reported (http://is.gd/SR50PH).

The largely Native militia was formed to protect the territory of Alaska during World War II.

"Those guys were here in a threatened environment. You look at the technology in those days before cellphones, before Internet, before the ability to communicate as quickly and rapidly as we do today, said Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Katkus, state Military and Veterans Affairs Commissioner and adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard. "They stood there with an unknown threat coming and banded together, and basically were prepared to defend their communities."

ATG Park Committee member Buck Bukowski said the recognition is overdue.

The 6,000-member Alaska Territorial Guard was formed in 1942 after Japan's attack of Pearl Harbor and points along the state's Aleutian Islands. It disbanded with little fanfare in March 1947, almost two years after the war ended.

Ten years ago, the Army formally recognized Alaska Territorial Guard members as U.S. military veterans.

Memorial park organizers say there's work to be done at the cemetery on a 2,000-foot walking trail on the tundra, as well as more landscaping. There also could be a gazebo to cover a picnic area.

A bronze statue of an Alaska Territorial Guard member watches over the wall and veterans cemetery. The park includes flags for each community and garden boxes.

The Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs contributed $140,000 for the project. Local companies and organizations donated many thousands more in work and materials.

Katkus said the park stands out in the state.

"It's just incredible what they've been able to do with it," he said.

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Information from: KYUK-AM, http://www.kyuk.org

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