Alaska Natives celebrate Veterans Day

Four World War II warriors given special recognition in event

Posted: Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Juneau's Native community honored its members who have served in uniform in a spirited celebration Tuesday that involved honoring aging warriors and traditional Native dancing.

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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

A Veterans Day luncheon honoring veterans drew about 200 people to the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall. The event was hosted by Southeast Alaska Native Veterans.

"It's because of you that we are able to stand up for Native rights," Alaska Native Brotherhood Grand Camp President Brad Fluetsch told the veterans. "Not only have you represented your country well, you represent your people well."

Special recognition was given to four World War II vets who fought in a war that ended more than 60 years ago. They were Harold Wheaton Sr., Mack Nakamura Sr., William Horton and George Mayeda.

Wheaton said he served on the island of Shemya in the Aleutians, servicing bombers during the war, and he can still recall the celebration the day it was announced the war was over.

"They gave us a big case of beer, and I'll tell you, that was a big drunken party," Wheaton said.

The featured speaker, Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines, a Vietnam War veteran, said he still has the occasional bad dream about the war.

Thomas said veterans often have a hard time adjusting to a more prosaic life after war that's free of the dangers of war and the constant jolts of adrenaline that come with it.

"I think that's why we went to drugs and alcohol," Thomas said, adding that families needed to be recognized for standing with loved ones who have rough transitions back from warzones.

Thomas said it was nice to see veterans being honored, in contrast to the protests he saw when he initially returned from the war.

"I'm proud to be a veteran," he said.

• Contact reporter Alan Suderman at alan.suderman@juneauempire.com.



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