KETCHIKAN — Paul Dawson, veteran and father of a veteran, wanted to get something done.
He knew that Prince of Wales Island needed a veterans’ memorial, so he jumped in and took the lead.
“It’s hard to push a chain, but you can sure get on it and drag it,” he said of motivating others.
He planned fundraisers and recruited help from several sources around town. The City of Craig donated the spot of land and backhoe and other construction equipment; Tyler Rental donated equipment and cash; and Southeast Builders donated concrete.
In the final construction, a flagpole rises from a blue concrete five-pointed star. Its top points to magnetic north. Nestled in the bottom crook of the star are hexagonal concrete tiles engraved with the name of “gold star supporters” that donated equipment and money. Others are engraved with the names of Prince of Wales veterans.
At the foot of the star is a bench engraved with the message, “A nation which forgets its defenders will soon be forgotten.” When sitting on the bench, visitors face the north-reaching star point and the flag pole, topped by a flying eagle. Dawson said the pole flies an American flag on top and a red flag below, with the quote: “We support our troops.” Under the quote are the seals of the four U.S. military branches.
Dawson said he was inspired to action by his daughter’s military service and by the 2007 crash of the “Easy 40” UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in Iraq that killed 12 personnel.
Dawson’s daughter, Amelia R. Dawson, has served in Iraq and Kosovo and has been in the Arkansas Army Guard for 20 years.
She was awarded the Air Medal for flying over Iraq in a combat unit for a year, and is a chief warrant officer, 3.
She completed a one-year deployment in Iraq as an assault helicopter pilot and a one-year deployment in Kosovo as a medical service helicopter pilot, Dawson said.
There are at least two purple heart recipients, a World War II veteran and other veterans with notable records on Prince of Wales Island, Dawson said.
He described fundraising events he organized in Craig. He modeled them on entertainer Bob Hope’s shows for the United Service Organizations, he said, and donated half of the proceeds to that group. The USO, Dawson said, does important work supporting troops when they return to the U.S.
On Memorial Day, Alaska Veterans Caucus staff member, and veteran Aaron Schroeder spoke at the dedication of the new memorial, Dawson said. About 100 people attended.
Three senior Prince Of Wales Island veterans were honored at the event: Alva Peratrovich of Klawock, who served in World War II; Chuck Natkong of Hydaburg, who served in Vietnam and Korea; and Russell Snook of Craig, who served in World War II.
Congressman Don Young and State Director Chad Padgett visited the memorial on recent visits as well.
Dawson said he recently had sent in the paperwork to start an official American Legion post in Craig, and was confident it would be up and running soon.
He said people interested in joining, or who have questions, can contact him in Craig.