Like hundreds of thousands of other young Americans when World War II broke out, Edward G. Pagano entered the Army as a buck private. By the time he retired, he was a major general -- a decorated veteran with a Purple Heart awarded for wounds suffered on Okinawa, in one of the toughest battles in the annals of the American military.
Ed Pagano earned his two-star rank when he became Alaska adjutant general in 1982, commanding the Alaska National Guard and serving as the state's commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, posts he held for four years of outstanding duty.
Maj. Gen. Pagano died Jan. 20 at the age of 74, leaving a legacy of distinguished service to his country and his state.
Born in the Aleut village of Unga, Pagano became Alaska's first Native adjutant general, introducing new training and operating procedures and creating the Alaska Defense Force, the Alaska Naval Militia and a department of Emergency Services.
Among other things, he was instrumental in convincing the National Guard Bureau, the Department of Defense and the Air Force of the need to establish the Alaska Air National Guard's 68th Air Refueling Wing at Eielson Air Force Base, near Fairbanks.
He also was successful in securing new UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters for the Alaska Army National Guard, the first time such state-of-the-art craft had been assigned to local defense forces.
Maj. Mike Haller, a spokesman for the Guard and one who served with Gen. Pagano, paid tribute to his former commander in an especially moving way, saying: ''What he contributed mattered. What he did saved lives.''
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