Gov. Sean Parnell shakes hands with Sgt. 1st Class Lonzell Scott, while Sgt. 1st Class Ben Guritz watches at the first Alaska National Guard Day on July 30, 2012 on Douglas at Sandy Beach.
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Morris Carrillo, front, and Staff Sgt. Michael Manson grill up some meat for the first Alaska National Guard Day on July 30, 2012 in Douglas at Sandy Beach.
Story last updated at 8/8/2012 - 1:07 pm
Getting to know the soldier next door might be a bit tough most days - they leave for work earlier than most and periodically deploy overseas to serve in missions, but on July 30, Juneau and the Alaska National Guard broke out the barbecue and celebrated their service.
Gov. Sean Parnell proclaimed July 30 as Alaska National Guard Day, and was celebrated in Southeast's everyday rain on Douglas at Sandy Beach. The Alaska National Guard was formally created on the date in 1948.
Soldiers young and old, past and present, from the Alaska National Guard turned out to enjoy the day with comrades and the community.
Maj. Kyle Holt, executive officer for the 761st Military Police Battalion of Auke Bay, felt honored by the day.
"Today marks the first annual Alaska National Guard Day by proclamation of Gov. Sean Parnell, dedicated to the men and women of both the Army and the Air National Guard," Holt said. "I'm honored. It shows the community that's joined together and recognizes not just the currently serving National Guard, but the retired members as well. I do feel it's important to pause and recognize the service of men and women of the Alaska National Guard. Even though we're here today, there are some of our Southeast Alaska soldiers who could not because they're in harms way in Afghanistan. I wish they could be here, but they're fulfilling their mission."
The Guard serves two missions: one to statewide issues by order of the governor, and one mission given by directive of the U.S. President.
Sgt. 1st Class Lonzell Scott saw the day as an opportunity to get out and meet the community.
"You hear a lot about the deployments ... you don't get a chance to see a lot of this - the person next door," he said.
Scott joined the Guard in 1982, and has been serving in Alaska since 2004. He's only been in Juneau since May, and is also a military police officer and equal opportunity advisor. Military service is something quite simple for Scott.
"Pride in the country and a chance to meet good people," he said.
He called the event a huge success.
"You've got new faces," he said. "You get to know the people around you."
Walter Smith retired from the National Guard in about 1992, after joining in 1965. He left as a staff sergeant and tank driver, but said he learned all kinds of jobs and tasks in the Guard.
"I thought, 'I'm here, I might as well do it," Smith said.
He served with Sitka for a while before transferring to Hoonah in the 80s.
"I wanted to - I really don't know why, I just wanted to," Smith said of why he enlisted.
Smith started with the U.S. Army before going into the Guard.
"It meant that I felt like I was doing my job, helping protect," he said. "Anytime there was an emergency, I was there to help. That's important to me."
Smith enjoyed the event.
"I think it's pretty good," he said. "I think it's the right thing to do."
On July 30, Gov. Sean Parnell and his wife Sandy made an appearance, with the governor giving a speech. Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho also spoke, giving his own proclamation on behalf of the City and Borough of Juneau.
"Whereas, many Juneau citizens have served, or are serving, in the Alaska National Guard," Botelho said. "Whereas the members of the Guard are ready, at a moment's notice, to leave hearth and home to serve and protect wherever they may be called; and whereas, the Alaska National Guard is a shining example of the heritage and tradition of the citizen soldier, standing ready at freedom's frontier."
"Now, therefore, I, Bruce Botelho, Mayor of the City and Borough of Juneau, Alaska, on behalf of the Borough Assembly and citizens of Juneau, do hereby proclaim our admiration and appreciation for the dedicated service of the men and women of the Alaska National Guard who proudly serve the state and defend the nation as only an Alaskan can."
Sarah Day is the editor of Capital City Weekly. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.