The population of Hoonah will grow a thousandfold today as the state of Alaska will be, spiritually, if not physically, in the small Southeast village for support as it lays two of its best and brightest to rest.
Matthew Tokuoka and Anthony Wallace were taken from the town of Hoonah too quickly, but during their time there they managed to leave a legacy large enough for more than a lifetime.
Wallace kept the peace in Hoonah, then would teach the art of wrestling to the city's young people, sharing what he'd learned as an All-American wrestler in college.
Tokuoka, the Marine who kept his head cropped boot-camp close, worked to keep Hoonah's streets quiet. He was a quiet example of strength and a private family man who nevertheless knew how to brighten the Hoonah Police Station with a perfectly played prank.
"They will be impossible to replace," said Hoonah's police chief, John Millan. "We will get good people and build the department back, but you can't replace people like that... I wouldn't expect to and wouldn't want to try."
Our hope is today's memorial service will be a positive step towards healing the deceased officers' friends and family members, along with the city of Hoonah. But no one thing will completely fill the vacuum left by these men, and no selection of words can completely soothe the pain caused by their deaths.
For anyone struggling to come to grips with this awful occurence, we ask you to reach out to one of the many resources available. These include, but certainly aren't limited to:
211. A free service, dialing 211 will put people in contact with health and human services available in Alaska. There is also a website, www.alaska211.org.
Victims for Justice. This group, whose Alaska office is in Anchorage, offers services to those impacted by violent crime. The help they provide includes crisis intervention, grief education and support, and outreach to rural Alaska. They can be reached at (888) 835-1213 or by visiting www.victimsforjustice.org.
SEARHC. The Trudy Wolfe Health Center in Hoonah is a Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium facility, located at 568 Raven Dr. They can be reached at 945-3235, or by visiting searhc.org.
Faith-based counseling. Those with a relationship with a pastor or other religious leader can seek help from those advisers.
We thank Brenda Hewitt, president of the United Way of Southeast Alaska, for those options.
If a future without Tony and Matt seems too difficult, please reach out for help. The loss of the men we honor today is tragedy enough.