Deceased members of WWII Alaska militia honored
More than 70 years ago, 6400 Alaska Natives answered the call to serve. The Alaska Territorial Guard patrolled the coasts against threat of invasion from 1942 to 1947, but, when World War II ended, their service was forgotten.
It wasn’t until the year 2000 when Senator Ted Stevens started the effort to recognize and properly thank Territorial Guard members. For many, it was as simple as a piece of paper naming them what they were: soldiers.
On Friday, the Alaska Native Heritage Center hosted a ceremony awarding the relatives of Territorial Guardsmen honorable discharge medals and papers.
It was an emotional experience for Jason Bourdukofsky, a Vietnam war hero in his own right, whose father served in the Alaska Territorial Guard and then the Army.
“They were in the 10,000-Mile War, they called it, the Aleutian Campaign,” said Bourdukofsky. “It was a difficult time for him. He didn’t know how we were doing, whether we were still alive or not.”
World War II ended and the scars on the Aleutian Island healed, but for Private George Bourdukofsky, something was always missing.
“He always mentioned he never got the discharge, but he was honorably discharged,” said Jason Bourdukofsky.
That discharge is missing no longer. Pvt. George Bourdukofsky was among the 16 honored Friday. Governor Bill Walker, Alaska National Guard Adjutant General Laurie Hummel and other Alaska military leaders handed the official papers and medal to their descendants, recognizing them as soldiers 70 years later.
“The Alaska National Guard descended from the Alaska Territorial Guard and so our missions, our spirit and our dedication come from the Territorial Guard,” said Hummel.
It’s bittersweet for Bourdukofsky. His father is one of the many who didn’t live to see this day.
“I kind of choked up when I go up there, and I’m thinking to myself, after listening to all my dad’s stories, that I wish he was here to accept this award himself,” he said.
While his dad isn’t here, Bourdukofsky said there’s comfort in knowing the sacrifices they made are finally appreciated.
“It’s a great honor for me, it really is,” he said.
Living Territorial Guard members and their spouses are eligible for a pension. The families of those who have passed can apply to receive a memorial headstone.
To find out if your relative served in the Territorial Guard and apply for benefits, go to veterans.alaska.gov or call (907) 334-0874.