DVIDS – News – Alaska National Guard armory honor post restored by original artists, Vietnam veteran and son


Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska – The Alaska National Guard Pole of Honor, which is a monument dedicated to the profound contributions of Alaska Natives to state security and heritage in the past and the present, sits proudly in front of the Alaska National Guard Armory here and is seen by all who enter the building. This 11.5-foot post, built by George Bennett Sr., a Vietnam War veteran and rural liaison veteran with the Alaska Department of Veterans Affairs, and his son, James Bennett, was remodeled from 16 to April 17 after 12 years in front of the building.

Although this structure has many similarities to totem poles in Tlingit culture, it is considered a “pole of honor”.

“As a pole of honor, it is no longer synonymous with one people,” explained James.

The pole of honor was originally carved out of red and yellow cedar in 2007 in Sitka by the Bennett’s. After helping friends and family paint it, the post was sent to Anchorage in 2008, where it arrived at the Office of Construction and Facilities building. While the post was there, Brig retired. General Mike Bridges took it upon himself to look after the honor post until he reached his final destination in front of the arsenal.

In 2015, the father-son duo traveled to Anchorage to clean the pole of honor in a ceremony. At this point, James also showed his gratitude to Bridges for taking care of the Pole of Honor by adopting it into their culture during the ceremony.

“With our culture, we treat it [the pole] like it’s a person, a living thing, so I respected that a lot, ”said James.

Bridges also bonded with George during their shared military experiences in the 25th Infantry Division. When he first met him, George was wearing a 25th ID hat in his service time, and Bridges had his 25th ID deployment patch.

“It sparked a kind of fellowship conversation, and then I found out that he was also working for the AV,” Bridges said. “It was important because I spent more time working with Verdie Bowen [the director of the Office of Veterans Affairs] and veterans at the time.

Bridges helped the Bennett’s restore the post of honor on April 17.

To restore the honor post, it was stripped down, sanded, and putty put in the cracks to keep the wood from expanding or molding.

“In our culture, we don’t restore totem poles because when they fall they come back home,” James said. “We just rebuild them. It is not a totem pole, it is an honor pole, which is why we can restore it.

Bennett said that, due to the symbolism of this particular pole, its restoration is appropriate.

The various parts of the pole of honor incorporate symbols of regional indigenous Pan-Alaskan cultures; the bowhead whale is for the north, the caribou is for the interior, the crow is for the southeast, the masks are for the southwest, and the box at the base that has “ATG” engraved in it for the guard Alaska Territorial is the “Spirit Box” that contains the names of National Guard veterans.

“The ATG box at the bottom, the basis of it all, contains the military spirit of these volunteers,” said George.

“We see this as a restoration of history,” added James. “That’s really what this pole is all these years later; it’s history, telling a story in a language that is very unique to this country. ”

Date taken: 04/27/2021
Date posted: 04.27.2021 20:00
Story ID: 394919

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