In this country we have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as a result of the fine men and women who serve in the Armed Forces of the United States of America. These freedoms are not free, they often come at a high price for the soldiers, and their families.
Native Americans serve at a higher rate than any other ethnic group. My uncle a member of the Navajo Nation, Sargent Jesus Geronimo Montes. A Marine, dedicated 12 years of his life to serving this country. He paid a high price for our freedoms. His peace of mind, and spirit were MIA. We as a country failed to give him the care he earned, the care he deserved, the care he needed. Throughout his life he suffered greatly, as did his entire family.
He was struck by a car and died a couple of months later as a result of his injuries. The attorney refused to settle the estate, as he wanted to drain it of legal fees. This man dishonored my uncle. My father was in intensive care at this time so I chose to spend his last days with him. We never received the monies owed to us. Itwas never about the money, it was about honoring a veteran in life and in death. This caused me untold pain
I’ve come to the realization that we need to take responsibility for caring for our veterans. So they, and their families do not suffer as my family did. As a result, I have become an advocate for veterans.
I was asked to provide assistance for a ceremony to honor our veterans. I took the first flight from Standing Rock back to San Francisco to be of assistance.
The next day on April 29, 2017 we gathered at the VA facility in Menlo Park, California to provide traditional healing for our veterans.
The event was organized by Sonia Tetnowski, of the Makah Tribe of Washington State. She servedin the U.S. Army Airborne Division.She participated in Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Haiti.
On this day many veterans entered the emotional battleground to help their fallen comrades. The veterans came to wipethe tears of their brothers and sisters, they also wiped the tears of the family members who were in mourning.As a result of their efforts many veterans and family members received help that day. These are true heroes, true warriors. This is the reason we always honor them.
Richard Chargingeagle, performed the Wiping of the Tears Ceremony to bring people out of mourning. He is a Marine, and Vietnam veteran. He is a Lakota Sioux, of the Cheyanne River Sioux Tribe. He also taught us how to perform this ceremony, so we could be of service to others in the future.
We don’t speak in detail of these sacred ceremonies. I can say however, that we were presented with an honor flag, and a medallion.
Members of the community also came out to honor our veterans. Anecita Hernandez was up all night preparing items necessary for the event. Mike Durant also came out to provide support, he consoled me as I could not hold back the tears. I came out to help heal the veterans. It was I, who received the healing and support of my community as well. The All Nations Singers drum group of the Intertribal Friendship House of Oakland played beautiful honor songs. They are always there to serve their community in a good way. The gourd singers also sang honor songs, and a local drum group played honor songs as well. Local dancers honored the veterans by dancing traditional dance at the ceremony.
All Nations Singers : Left to right: Michael Andrews, Michael Bellanger, Manny Lieras, traditional dancer, Sonny
The Indian Health CenterCounselingand Prevention Services Department of Santa Clara Valley organized this event. Their organizing committee put together an amazing event that both honored, and healed the veterans.
Mike Roman, (Corporal, US Marines Corps)
Marcus Rodriguez ((Specialist, US Army)
Annamae Taubeneck (Sergeant, US Army)
Sonya Tetnowski, (Staff Sergeant, US Army Airborne)
Pablo Viramontes Sr. (Staff Sergeant, US Air Force)
Two weeks later as I was headed back to Standing Rock, a sister asked if I would accompany her and pray for her at the sweat lodge at the VA hospital in Hot Springs South Dakota. As a member of the Native American Church, I never refuse a request for prayer. The lodge keeper Guy Red Owl provides healing for the veterans every Friday. While there I was notified that the veterans at this hospital are being harassed by the administration. These veterans formed a group called Save the VA. They are advocates for the veterans that are receiving end of life care, and treatment at this facility. We shall be filing a formal complaint to our Senators and members of congress. As we do not tolerate abuse of our veterans!
Sweat Lodge Vets
It was an honor to be with these veterans. Richard Flittle, a Marine and Vietnam veteran is a drum maker. When he became aware that the lodge needed hides for the drum and rattles, he immediately sent them the supplies they needed. This is the way we are supposed to live, to honor our heroes by healing them.
Throughout Indian Country there are many events being held to honor our heroes. We will raise awareness and advocate for them as their medical benefits are being cut. We believe they have earned their benefits, and we as a country should support their healthcare. For instance, transition lenses in eye glasses are no longer covered. We hope that you show your support by healing and helping our heroes in whatever capacity you can. For it is because of them that we are free.
Below are three upcoming events that honor our veterans:
On July 15th One People One Planet Coalition visited the VA hospital in Washington, D.C. To honor, and provide support to our veterans. On November 4, 2017 they will walk from Seattle to San Francisco in support of veterans, and to raise awareness of environmental issues. Specifically in protection of the water, for all living things rely on water to survive and prosper.
The 3rd Annual Gathering of American Indian Veterans celebrating all U.S. military.
Where: Catigny Park
1s151 Winfield Rd, Wheaton, Illinois 60189
Special appreciation to Trickster Art Gallery for organizing this event that honors our veterans.