Today is Veterans Day. It is a day to honor and pay tribute to veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who served their country.
Because it is a national holiday, federal offices and other businesses will be closed. Many tribal offices will also be closed for business today.
Beyond a day off from work, today is time to reflect on the brave contributions veterans made while serving our country. The personal sacrifices of military men, particularly at time of war, are immense in terms of being separated from their families and loved ones. During war they are in harms’ way and risk their lives.
Sadly, many sacrifice their lives to preserve freedom.
Historically, American Indians were known as warriors. It is a deep tradition that has continued to modern times. This is perhaps the reason the Pentagon reports American Indians and Alaska Natives participate in the military at a higher rate than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States.
According to the 2010 Census, it is estimated that over 150,000 veterans identified as American Indian and Alaska Native alone. The US Department of Defense estimates there are currently over 24,000 active duty Native service members in the US Armed Forces.
The Department of Veteran Affairs reported in 2006 more than 36,000 female /veterans are American Indians Alaska Natives, representing almost 10 percent of all American Indians/Alaska Natives veterans, and nearly twice the national average (6 percent of women in the overall population are veterans).
The vast contributions the Navajo and Comanche code talkers during World War II have chronicled in recent years. The fact that their code has never been broken is witness to the power of Native language that fortunately was available to those who spoke it then.
This past year several Native veterans provided memorable moments that made Indian country proud by taking the stage at nationally televised events:
- In January, the Native American Women Warriors marched in President Barack Obama’s second Inaugural Parade.
- In June, respected Ojibwe elder George Martin – Korean Conflict veteran — carried the Eagle Staff in front of a sold-out crowd prior to Game One of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Western Conference Final on Saturday afternoon between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings.
- In July, ninety-year old Navajo Code Talker David E. Patterson, Sr., MSMC, represented Indian country at Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game in New York.
Beyond these fine examples of Native veterans, there are countless others in Indian country who participate at powwows and other community events by serving in honor guards. They carry our eagle staffs and tribal nation flags, as well as other governmental flags, into the dance arena during grand entries. The power of the drum, coupled with the brilliance of the eagle feathers and colorful flags still cause a tremendous moment of remembrance to their service. They represent well.
Today, the Native News Online honors all warrior veterans and says “megwetch” (thank you) for all you did for this country.
George Martin carries Eagle Staff, during the 2013 Stanley Cup.