Commentary: Alaska vets deserve retirement pay

The Obama administration has said it doesn't want two dozen aging veterans of the Alaska Territorial Guard to have their World War II service count toward retirement pay. The reason? Such a qualification would set a bad precedent of granting federal benefits for state service.

Nonsense. The circumstances in this case are unique. To speak of setting precedent is absurd.

Alaska's congressional delegation is unanimous in support of full benefits for these veterans, and they should school the administration on some American history:

• Alaskan was not a state, but a United States territory when the territorial guard was formed in 1942. The service of these soldiers had nothing to do with the state of Alaska, which didn't exist until 17 years later.

• The United States was at war then, and Japanese troops would land and fight on U.S. soil in the Aleutians. The 6,600-member territorial guard was formed to protect U.S. soil.

• The Department of the Army counted territorial guard service as active military service until 2008, when a reinterpretation of a 2000 law discounted the service. To his credit, then-Secretary of the Army Pete Geren dipped into an emergency fund to extend the benefits for two months past their January 2009 expiration date.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Anchorage Daily News.