SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


As Alaskans honor Independence Day
Patriotism is never old-fashioned.

By Governor Frank H. Murkowski


July 03, 2006

From the deserts of the Middle East to our U.S. military bases in Germany and Alaska, I was privileged recently to deliver messages to loved ones from some courageous Alaskans.

They are the men and women of our armed forces, standing resolute on ground in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan -- distant duty stations on the other side of the world that include some of the most dangerous places on the planet today.


jpg Black Hawk helicopter crew brief Governor

Black Hawk helicopter crew briefs Gov. Frank Murkowski on
flight to forward coalition operating base near Mosul, Iraq.
Photograph courtesy Department of Defense

When I flew to a forward operating base near Mosul, Iraq, it was 130 degrees in our Black Hawk helicopter. But desert temperatures are only incidental to the challenges faced by these fine military professionals. And for a moment at least, perhaps memories of icy salmon streams and snow-covered mountains can help deal with the physical demands of desert combat.

I am pleased to report to their wives, husbands, families and friends in Alaska that morale among our troops is high as they meet challenges to democracy today in the Middle East.

I spent time with members of the 207th Aviation Battalion of the Alaska Army Guard from Ft. Richardson, time with troops from the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team based at Ft. Wainwright, and I also heard messages for the folks at home from soldiers of the 423rd Infantry from Ft. Richardson.

I also spent several hours visiting military patients recovering at the Rahmstein Air Force Base hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. It is a fitting reminder to reflect on their commitment to freedom on July 4th as we celebrate Independence Day.

jpg Flight crew briefs Gov. Murkowski

Flight crew briefs Gov. Murkowski on combat capabilities of military helicopters prior to flight to meet Alaska troops at Al Tafar operations base in northern Iraq.
Photograph courtesy Department of Defense

In other policy meetings with embassy officials we discussed one similarity shared by Alaska and Iraq. Both are major energy producers. I talked with Tarig al-Hashimi, the Iraqi vice president, about the Alaska Permanent Fund and how it works.

I can't predict whether Iraq will ever develop its own fund, but describing how our "PFDs" work with the vice president shows just how far that nation has come since its resources were wasted at the whim of a dictator.

In Kabul, we met another leader who is accountable to voters. Afghan President Hamid Karzai welcomed me and my traveling companions on behalf of the White House, Governor John Hoeven of North Dakota and Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina.

Time after time on this trip - in Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany - I met Alaska men and women in uniform who are proud professionals, keep their sense of humor and maintain high morale.

Oh, I know: some cynics will disagree. They sigh that patriotism is so "out of style." But I disagree.

Today's armed services volunteers demonstrate a dependable strength of character -- one that is still a timely reminder after 230 years of events in our own nation leading up to July 4, 1776.

jpg Governor & Alaska Army National Guard

Governor Murkowski joined with members of the TF 1-101 AVN, No Mercy, Alaska Army National Guard at the Forward Operating Base in Tal Afar, Iraq.
Photograph courtesy Department of Defense

Our Congress was in constant fear of capture or encirclement by British troops, yet members declared our nation's independence from Great Britain. The Continental Army was long on courage and bravery, but short on experience and success.

After defeats on Long Island, at Harlem and at White Plains, the army fled into New Jersey. Many soldiers walked barefoot and as winter approached, most slept without shelter, often in a driving rain.

The British officers figured such conditions would drain the fight from the Continental Army.

It did not.

In 1776, as today, soldiers were volunteers. They didn't have to put themselves in harm's way, but chose to do so in any case. They were in the field for a reason ­ to stand up for liberty and the safety of their families and communities.

My most recent trip to the Middle East to meet with Alaska troops confirmed once again that little has changed in the character of the American soldier in more than 200 years.

In Alaska, patriotism is never old-fashioned.



Publish A Letter on SitNews         Read Letters/Opinions

Contact the Editor

Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska