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#1 Sep-30-2007 09:58:am


Seneca Nation hails its first Annapolis graduate

Seneca Nation hails its first Annapolis graduate
Updated: 09/30/07 9:22 AM


    Charles Lewis/Buffalo News
    Lt. j.g. Jedadiah Jamerson is greeted by uncles Lew Jamerson, left, and Charlie Jamerson at a party in his honor.

CATTARAUGUS INDIAN RESERVATION — The Seneca Nation swelled with pride Saturday for the man in dress whites who had come home.

Lt. j.g. Jedadiah Jamerson is a Naval Academy graduate, a submariner who returns Monday to Norfolk, Va., an inspiration to other Senecas and an all-around good sport for letting his mother throw a bash for him that brought friends, family, military veterans and Seneca leaders all wanting a picture with the young officer.

“I’m surprised he even let me do this,” said Donna Jamerson, the proud mom who deferred to her son’s wish that it be an informal affair there in the fire hall — hot dogs, hamburgers and casual comfort would do just fine — even though he has made history.

When the lieutenant, now 25, graduated from the Naval Academy in 2004, his mother shared the news with Joe Curry, a Navy veteran of Korea and Vietnam, who lost a brother in the Vietnam War, Wilbur Curry Jr.

Joe Curry has been active in veterans affairs and has researched the history of Senecas and other Native Americans who have distinguished themselves in uniform. When talking with Donna Jamerson three years ago, Curry knew of no other Seneca to graduate from the Naval Academy.

A Cherokee, Joseph J. “Jocko” Clark, had graduated from the academy during World War I, but Curry could find no other Seneca. So as far as Seneca history is concerned, Jed Jamerson is the first to graduate from Annapolis.

The lieutenant understands the significance.

“To me, it means I am opening new doors for other people,” he said. “I see it as encouraging other people that they can do the same thing.”

He figures there were others in and around the fire hall Saturday who could have done as well as or better than he had.

“I was not like a stellar midshipman,” he said. “I was pretty much middle of the road.”

He attended Gowanda Junior-Senior High School until he was about 13, then went to live with his great-aunt in San Antonio. Agnes J. Thompson was retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel and willing to advise the boy on his career choices. But he made the decisions, she said.

He was a fine student at San Antonio’s Theodore Roosevelt High School. He was involved in the National Honor Society, the student government and Junior ROTC. He was a representative to Boys State and captain of the JROTC rifle team. He graduated 11th in a class of about 360 and was accepted at Harvard as well as Annapolis.

But at the academy he was suddenly swimming in a big pond of superachievers. Overwhelmed, he started out poorly. Midway through his first semester, his academic average sank to 1.97.

“I was failing. I had four C’s and a D,” he said. “But by the end of that semester, I had figured things out, I was working with it, and I got a 2.8.”

The rest is Seneca history that brought out dozens of people Saturday and drew retired Army Lt. Col. Thompson up from San Antonio for the celebration in Jamerson’s honor. In her golden years, she does not look the part of retired Army brass. But when she would visit her great-nephew at the academy and go through security points, guards would snap to salute her.

“I have tried to be there for all of his big events,” she said.

Jamerson has been back to Gowanda since his graduation, but this was the first time a party in his honor could be put together. Saturday, the Seneca Nation presented him its new Eagle Award, which has been given only once before, to Joe Curry about two years ago.

“The Seneca Nation executives and council applaud you in reaching this great achievement,” the plaque states. “You have instilled in our youth the incentive to be all that they can be. As an Eagle Award recipient, you are a hero in our eyes, and we applaud your achievement.”

It ended with two terms: “Bravo Zulu,” the Navy code for a job well done, and “Nya-Weh,” the word of thanks in the Seneca language.

email: mspina@buffnews.com

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