By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, has been celebrated since the 1860s as a time to remember those who gave their lives in the defense of this country. The Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143 held its annual observance on Monday, May 28 at the Yellowhill Veterans Memorial Cemetery.
“We gather again to honor our brothers and sisters who have given the last full measure of devotion,” said Post 143 Commander Lew Harding. “Because of them, our lives are free. Because of them, our nation lives. All the world is indebted to them because of what they gave.”
Commander Harding went on to say, “It is incumbent upon us, those who remain, to remember, to memorialize, to honor their spirit and their memory…those of us who were fortunate enough to live on will never forget, and we are honor-bound to never let others forget.”
Monday’s keynote speaker was Col. Bob Blankenship, U.S. Army retired, who served as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and is a former EBCI Tribal Council Chairman. He started by thanking the servicemen and women and their families for their service to the United States throughout the years.
Prior to his speech he shared an email he received that morning from Lt. Col. Tony Dill who is currently deployed in Afghanistan. Lt. Col. Dill was part of a group who jumped into Cherokee during a Golden Knights parachute demonstration several years ago.
In his email, which Col. Blankenship read to the crowd, Lt. Col. Dill shared, “In honor of all the Cherokee who have served the United States military, I flew the Cherokee flag you gave me in Qualla over the Special Operations compound on the ISAF (International Stabilization Force) headquarters base today for Memorial Day.”
In his keynote speech, Col. Blankenship commented, “They gave their tomorrows for our todays. The empty seats at the dinner table, their absence at Thanksgiving and Christmas family gatherings – the distant memory of their voice is a vivid reminder that they are gone.”
He continued, “Some of the bravest and proudest soldiers who ever served our country are the Cherokee soldiers resting here at Yellowhill. Resting in peach, knowing they gave their best for their people and their country.”
During Monday’s observance, a memorial wreath was laid at the cemetery by Former Principal Chief Robert S. Youngdeer, a highly decorated WWII veteran; Maj. Bill Underwood (Ret.); and Legionnaires William “Bill” Paul and Snake Panther.
Ray Kinsland gave the opening prayer and Maj. Underwood gave the benediction for Monday’s program. Legionnaire Phyllis Shell sang “It’s an Honor to Serve” and Post 143 service officer Warren Dupree played “Taps” on the bugle at the end of the observance.
To view more photos from this event, please visit the One Feather photo gallery at: http://theonefeather.com/photo-galleries-2/