The remains of slain Hoonah police officers Anthony Wallace and Matthew Tokuoka, along with the U.S. Honor Flag, landed at Juneau International Airport from Anchorage at noon Tuesday.
As the Alaska State Troopers' jet taxied toward an Alaska National Guard hangar, Capital City Fire and Rescue pump trucks shot arches of water above it, creating a rainbow in the noon sun.
"One of the things about this job is there is an absolute brotherhood in responders," fireman Rehys Mateo said from behind the wheel of one of the tankers. "There is a kinship, whether you are police, state troopers, National Guard, fire and rescue ... It's an honor to be able to do this."
Parked directly across from Mateo, Tom Clark launched a second stream of water.
The urns carrying the remains of the fallen officers were accompanied by American flags and saluted by state troopers. A Juneau Police Department honor guard received the urns to complete the ritual at the hangar.
Colonel Audie Holloway, director of the Alaska State Troopers, flew down from Anchorage to watch the ritual.
"I am just here to pay my respects," Holloway said. "I have had to deal with several officers in the state being killed in the line of duty and this is a continuation of that, in the respect and honor we want to show the officers that give their lives to protect others."
Placed in two separate hearses, Wallace and Tokuoka's urns led a progression of state and local law enforcement vehicles from the airport to the Alaskan Memorial Park & Mortuary where they would remain under the watch of a police vigil through the night.
The U.S. Honor Flag was escorted to the roof of the Capitol building, where it was raised and then lowered to half-staff as Gov. Sean Parnell gave a brief speech.
"Alaskans, we are gathered today to honor the memory of some brave and fine people," Parnell said. He went on to mention Wallace and Tokuoka, former Senator Ted Stevens, U.S. Customs Agent Charles Collins, a United States Coast Guard crew from Air Station Sitka and the C-17 Air Force crew from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
Stevens died in a plane crash Aug. 9. Collins died in a car crash July 11, while three guardsmen from Air Station Sitka died in a helicopter crash July 7. A C-17 crashed near Anchorage July 28, killing four airmen.
"These people gave their lives that we may continue to live free, that we can continue to gather peaceably, that we have the rights that we enjoy and the responsibilities that are ours under the Constitution," Parnell said.
The flag was lowered and folded carefully by state troopers.
"It's an honor to be involved in this procession," Alaska State Trooper Lt. Craig MacDonald said. "This event to recognize fallen officers is something that we don't look forward to, but we take great pride in recognizing those who have fallen and that's the whole purpose behind this 9/11 flag. It is specifically for that purpose to honor fallen firefighters, fallen police officers, and to give the public a chance to think about and ponder the sacrifices they put in every day."
The U.S. Honor Flag flew over the site of the World Trade Center attacks shortly after 9/11. It has been used since then to honor people who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
"It is very humbling to do this," McDonald said. "I have been a trooper for 29 years and attended funeral services for police officers, some of which were friends of mine. It doesn't get easier... I didn't know either one of these officers, but they are still fellow officers. It could very easily have been me or someone else, and I have a son that is a trooper and it could have very easily have been him. There is a lot of solemnness, a lot of opportunity to pause and think about what is going on."
Juneau residents will be able to pay their respects to the fallen officers today. A funeral procession consisting of state troopers and JPD patrol vehicles will escort a mortuary vehicle containing the remains and members of the JPD honor guard.
The procession will start at about 10:15 a.m. at the Alaskan Memorial Park & Mortuary, 3839 Riverside Dr., and end around 10:30 a.m. at Auke Bay. There, the procession will board the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry Malaspina and depart for Hoonah at 10:45 a.m.
Mourners are encouraged to find legal parking along the route and stand clear of the roadway for the procession; drivers are reminded to yield to the funeral procession.
Contact Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Juneau Empire ©2014. All Rights Reserved.