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Memorial ceremony honors fallen Alaska officers | Local News

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About 15 years ago, a Lathrop High School student told a guidance counselor he was worried that he wasn’t worthy of becoming a police officer.

In 2008, North Pole Mayor Michael Welch shook the hand of that young man as he took the oath to become an Alaska State Trooper. His next goal was to become a wildlife trooper, Welch said. He was close to achieving that when he was murdered in the line of duty. That trooper’s name was Gabe Rich. He and fellow trooper Scott Johnson were shot and killed in Tanana on May 1, 2014.

The 2022 Police Memorial ceremony was held Friday at the North Pole park named after those two troopers, the Gabe Rich and Scott Johnson Memorial Park. Welch shared that personal story with the large crowd gathered and encouraged local residents to get to know local law enforcement officers personally.

“Let them know you support them,” he said. “They are here to defend us around the clock. We are part of this destiny together. ”

His comments were part of an annual ceremony for Police Memorial Day. Ceremonies were held in communities statewide.

Seventy-one law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty in Alaska, from U.S. Deputy Marshal William C. Watts of the U.S. Marshal Service on Sept. 1, 1897, to Sgt. Allen David Brandt of the Fairbanks Police Department on Oct. 28, 2016. Each of 71 names was read aloud at Friday’s ceremony.

“The law enforcement profession is like no other,” Fairbanks City Mayor Jim Matherly said. “When you take a job as a police officer, so does your family.”

Some of those officers have paid the ultimate price. Their families suffer and so do entire communities, he said.

The community can best honor those fallen officers by sharing their story with others and make sure their sacrifice is not forgotten, Matherly said.

“They must be remembered,” he said. “They answer the call that no one else will.”

Alaska State Troopers placed a special memorial wreath at the center of the park and the Law Enforcement Rifle Team provided a 21-gun salute.

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