Community editor and columnist Kris Capps is a longtime resident of Fairbanks and Denali Park. Contact her at kcapps@newsminer.com, in the office at 459-7546 or by cell at 322-6334. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.

A few years ago, Torrence Saxe attended Track-N-Field Day at Anderson School in Interior Alaska. His six children were all enrolled in the Denali Borough School District over the years.

“A little girl came up to me, I’d never seen her before, about 7 years old,” he recalled. She said hello and asked for a high-five, which he gave her. Then, she said, “Thanks for protecting us,” and happily ran off, carefree.

“And that is exactly the way it should be,” said Saxe, who was speaking Tuesday at his promotion ceremony from brigadier general to major general. He is the adjutant general for Alaska and the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs; the senior military adviser to the governor of Alaska; and commander of the Alaska National Guard. In that role, he is responsible for nearly 4,400 Guard members and state personnel assigned to units in the Alaska Air National Guard, Army National Guard and four state divisions. He ensures the team is equipped, trained and ready to respond to state and federal missions.

He also oversees the Alaska State Defense Force, Alaska Naval Militia, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Division of Administration, Veterans Affairs Office and the Alaska Military Youth Academy. Previously, Saxe served as commander of Clear Air Force Station, of the 168th Wing at Eielson Air Force Base and of the Air National Guard.

The ceremony was presided over by Gov. Michael Dunleavy, and the room was filled with soldiers, airmen, community members, friends and family. The message they heard from Saxe was one of respect, unity, commitment and the importance of family.

“This is my biggest motivation,” he said, introducing his wife, Clara, and their six children. That motivation extends to other families across Alaska and he vowed to gain their unwavering trust.

“Anything worth having is worth striving for, worth fighting for,” he said. “Folks are counting on us to do it right and to do it right every single time.”

He has already begun reaching out to communities throughout the state, meeting with local leaders and helping veterans apply for benefits in their own hometowns. He praised veterans, saying, “We have the freedom that we have because of the veterans who have gone before us.”

“The military does not exist to serve itself,” Saxe said. “It exists to serve the people of Alaska.”

To the men and women he oversees, he said, “Respect is independent of rank. I really seek to earn that respect. I could not be more proud to be on your team.”

His family has always had a strong commitment to the military and to the country. In fact, his father and uncle were there to pin the stars on his shoulders. His father, retired Lt. Col. Terrence Saxe, served in the Army; his uncle, retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Wayne Gander, was serving in Alaska when Torrence Saxe first came north in 1982. His father gave him his first salute in his new position.

“He has done well for himself,” the elder Saxe said later. “He looks good in Air Force blues.”

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at kcapps@newsminer.com. Call her at the office 459-7546 Follow her on Twitter @FDNMKris.