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Cherokee Nation honors Native veterans
By WILL CHAVEZ
Fri, Nov 12, 2010
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A day before Veteran’s Day, Native American veterans who served and protected this country spoke about their military service and the need to honor those who continue to serve.
At the Cherokee Nation’s Warriors Memorial, adjacent to the Tribal Complex, a high school band played patriotic songs and Cherokee youth sang for veterans and families who gathered.
Tribal leaders and veterans spoke about what Veteran’s Day should mean to people.
“The purpose of Veteran’s Day is to celebrate our living veterans, those veterans that have passed on and those that we have lost on the battlefield,” Rogan Noble a CN citizen who served with the Marine Corps and manages the CN Office of Veterans Affairs, said. “We are asking each and every one of you to honor your vets, your relatives and friends in your own way. That’s all a veteran really ever asks for is for someone to say thank you.”
U.S. Army veteran and CN citizen Elizabeth Setser returned from Afghanistan about two weeks before speaking at the event. She served with the Army National Guard’s 1st of the 45th AgriBusiness Development Team in the Paktika Province.
“Our main purpose there was to improve agricultural techniques to the local people,” she said.
Her main task was in poultry and working with youth and females. She said her experience with gathering eggs and with her friends’ chickens when she was younger came in handy.
Setser said she believes her service in Afghanistan made a difference for the people there.
“I’d like to think I made a difference. I promoted different types of agricultural training for females and youth. I attended female shuras, or meetings, where I encouraged females to go out on election day and vote,” she said. “I believe my team and all the service members are making a difference over there. I’m proud to be a female Native American veteran.”
Setser said she comes from a long line of veterans. Her grandfather, father, an aunt and uncles served in the military in various branches. She said her 19-year-old daughter is serving in the Air National Guard.
Debra American Horse Wilson, an Oglala Lakota Sioux Marine Corps veteran, is also from a long line of veterans. While speaking to the crowd, she said her “heart was broken” by the recent national elections. It wasn’t because of the results, she said, it was because the candidates “very rarely” spoke about veterans, their families or their issues.
“To me that’s just wrong. Those candidates were allowed to run for office and have the opportunity to win and serve the people because of my brothers and sisters who served in the military and those who are serving now,” Wilson said. “The cost of freedom is not free, and there are people here today who know that. So, let’s remember we are a great nation and strong nation because of what our veterans have done.”
Deputy Principal Chief Joe Grayson told the crowd that work would begin soon on the planned Veteran’s Center adjacent to the Warriors Memorial. He invited people to volunteer to help erect the building and said it would be open to all veterans, not just Natives.
Principal Chief Chad Smith said the center’s construction should be a community event involving veterans, their families and youth.
“All of our friends and family can drive by there and say ‘you know, I help put that up. You know, I can understand a little bit better now…the contributions and sacrifices of our veterans,’” he said.