Anchorage Archives - StoryCorps

After Vietnam, He Struggled to Be Accepted. Then He Met a Fellow Soldier Who Became His Brother

Cupi’g Alaska Native Eben Olrun joined the U.S. Marine Corps as a young man to fight in the Vietnam War. He returned home in 1972 to find his peers had turned against veterans, and that were few resources for soldiers fresh from combat.

Burdened with long-term injuries from his tour and wanting to forget his time overseas, Eben struggled with alcoholism. His path to healing began when he met the man he would come to call his brother— fellow Vietnam veteran Bill Martin. 

He came to StoryCorps with his son, Owen, to remember him.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired November 11, 2023 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top Photo: Vietnam veterans Eben Olrun (right) and Bill Martin (left) at the Arctic Valley Ski Area in Anchorage, Alaska. Courtesy of Eben Olrun.
Middle Photo: Eben Olrun with son Owen Olrun at their StoryCorps recording in Anchorage, Alaska on July 28, 2023.

“Strong Lines, Beautiful Lines”: Two Alaska Native Women Make Their Mark

When Grete Bergman was in her 20s, she began to think and dream about having facial markings. This was a tradition rooted in her Alaska Native family from the Gwich’in Nation. But growing up in Anchorage, Alaska, she learned a clear message from her father and grandmother that many of their family traditions would not be tolerated, in or outside of the house. 

Nearly ten years later, Grete met Sarah Whalen-Lunn through mutual friends. Sarah’s father is white, but her mother was Inupaq, so she is part of the Inuit Nation. 

Sarah Whalen-Lunn (L), about one year old, with her mother, Irene June Hayes. Grete Bergman (R) age 6 months, with her father, Grafton Bergman. Courtesy of Sarah Whalen-Lunn and Grete Bergman.

Sarah was also drawn to Traditional Face Markings, because she wanted to reconnect with the customs her family had been forced to abandon. In 2016, she enrolled in a program that taught her how to give them.  

Grete Bergman with her Traditional Markings. Courtesy of Sarah Whelan-Lunn.

This is where their paths crossed, and a friendship began. Their connection has helped revive a traditional practice that had been lost to previous generations of women.

Top Photo: Grete Bergman and Sarah Whalen-Lunn at their StoryCorps interview in Anchorage, Alaska on August 14, 2018. By Camila Kerwin for StoryCorps.

Originally aired October 15, 2021 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Doreen Simmonds and George Edwardson

George Edwardson tells his cousin, Doreen Simmonds, about watching his grandfather translate the New Testament into Inupiaq, their native language.

Originally aired March 13, 2009, on NPR’s Morning Edition.