By Kathy Hardin
Cherokee Middle School
Sam Lambert hosted local veterans in his classroom on Tuesday, Nov. 10. As he introduced his guests he said, “To be in the presence of a Veteran is an honor; they have given up many years of service for the freedoms we enjoy – this school, education, and home among a few.”
Don Rose, a tribal elder, told the students about his family life in Cherokee. He helped his parents take care of his younger siblings; he basically reared them even down to the youngest who was in diapers. When Rose was a sophomore, he worked at the craft shop.
Rose joined the military because there was no opportunity in Cherokee. Although he attended the boarding school and grew up in a community where everybody took care of one another, his parents agreed to let him join the Air Force at the end of his sophomore year. He attended schools at night and on weekends in Mississippi to earn enough credits for his high school diploma and then went to the University of Nebraska. He also furthered his education in business.
When Rose departed for the Air Force, he had never traveled beyond Canton where he visited his aunt. She would give him twenty five cents to go the movie, buy popcorn and a coca cola with a penny for change. After the movie he would buy a stick of caramel for one cent.
Joining the Air Force afforded him many adventures. He took a train from Asheville to Charlotte where he stayed in a hotel for the first time. Then he took a train to San Antonio, Texas and during his military career he has flown around the world twice and was able to see the spectacular places of the world.
Rose was asked if the people he met respected his Cherokee heritage and he said that they were “fascinated by his Cherokee Indian heritage and they were usually surprised that he could speak English as well as he did speak it and he was embarrassed that he couldn’t speak Cherokee as well as he wanted.”
While Rose attended the boarding school they were not allowed to speak Cherokee “because they thought it would make it harder for us to learn English and we needed to speak English.”
He said they used to meet in the basement at school and practice Cherokee and when they got caught the teachers would raise cane.
Rose met his wife in Gastonia and when they decided to marry at the local Methodist church, they were not able to proceed with the wedding. At that time, it was against the law in North Carolina for a non-Indian to marry an Indian so Rose and his bride traveled to South Carolina and were married on the Oct. 11, 1952. They have been married for 57 years and have five grown children – all of whom prospered and they have many grandchildren.
Rose said education is essential and there are four paths to success: Preparation – preparing yourself to receive an education and gaining experience. Patience – nothing is going to happen on your own schedule and not right away. Persistence – Keep on and do not give up. Experience – hard experience, nothing can replace it and you must be dependable and responsible.
Rose retired from the Air Force in 1974 after twenty four years of service. He has flown combat missions over Korea, spent thirteen months fifteen miles north of the Artic Circle where he passed information from the continental United States to Europe. He said the people in Greenland live on goats and cod fish and they were not allowed to interact with the Greenlanders for fear of spreading disease among them. He also spent thirteen months in the dessert in Africa where the average temperature in the shade was 116F and served in Vietnam. Rose said, “I went from being very naïve on my Indian reservation to being able to function in any situation.”
He grew out of his shy disposition to being able to communicate and interact with the most elite people. While serving in the armed forces he was responsible for briefing four star generals and based upon the information he offered them, the generals made their decisions.
Albert Crowe also visited the students in Sam Lambert’s classroom. Crowe served in the navy for eight years and began his college education. He served as a weapons expert and his submarine traveled to the north part of Russia where they followed Russian submarines in the event of war the United States was already prepared. Crowe reminded the students that “freedom comes at a price and people have given their lives for your freedom.”
He informed the students that “Cherokee Indians serve the military more than any other tribe in the United States. The Cherokee are committed to serving their country.”
Lew Harding served in the Navy for thirty three years and flew missions over Vietnam. He said he loved serving as a pilot but told the students, “ I am not a hero, the killing of people is very unsettling. Soldiers do not glorify war, we lift up the warrior because he had no choice but to fight and it is our tradition.”
Patrick Lambert offered regards to the veterans present and spoke of what an honor it was to share this opportunity with them. He referred to the veterans as tribal patriarchs.
Patrick Lambert encouraged the students to acquire their education and said that this privilege was secured by their very own veterans. He encouraged the students “to focus on your goal and stay true to yourself.” and reminded them “to honor God, family, and country. You can determine your own future, take care of your family, go to church and get your education.”
The Veterans celebration was concluded in the Fine Arts Center at Cherokee Middle School. Sam Lambert and his guests offered the students sound advice and it was truly an honor to hear the testimonies of these honorable veterans.