By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Veterans were honored and their service celebrated and remembered during a Memorial Service on Friday, Oct. 5. The service was held at the Acquoni Expo Center in conjunction with a visit from the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall which contains 58,267 names of United States soldiers killed in action during the Vietnam War.
“Thank you for your service to your country and welcome home to my brothers and sisters,” said Warren Dupree, Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143 service officer, who served as emcee for Friday’s event. “Always know that you did a good job. Job well done! You are the true heroes of this nation.”
He encouraged all to visit the Memorial Wall located on the lawn of the Expo Center. “It is an emotional experience for all of us whether you served in the military or not.”
Dupree gave some facts of those names listed on the Wall including:
– 3 sets of father-sons
– 31 sets of brothers
8,283 were 19 years old
– 33,103 were 18 years old
– 12 were 17 years old
– 5 were 16 years old
– 8 women soldiers
“There are no noble wars,” Dupree related, “just noble warriors.”
Principal Chief Michell Hicks addressed the crowd, “I am caught up in emotions this morning. I do feel unworthy to stand up here today. The burden of being a Chief is hard; but, I don’t know what the burden of being a soldier is. I appreciate the opportunity to be here.”
Staff Sgt. Nathan Henry, from Franklin, was a POW for almost six years during the Vietnam War. He was captured on July 12, 1967 and was freed on March 5, 1973.
One of Friday’s guest speakers, Henry said that race didn’t make a difference during the War. “We were all brothers.”
Upon returning home from Vietnam in 1973, he served as Grand Marshal in the Cherokee Indian Fair Parade. “The Cherokees are a great people. It’s a great honor to be here today.”
Brig. Gen. Tony E. McMillan, North Carolina Air National Guard, noted, “Nine hundred (900) Cherokee warriors have served since the Revolutionary War. One hundred and twenty-eight (128) served in Vietnam. The value of your service and achievement must be shared with our citizens today.”
EBCI tribal member Col. Bob Blankenship, former Tribal Council Chairman, served in the Vietnam War as a helicopter pilot. “There are 58,267 loved ones on that wall. They served with great distinction and dedication. They are heroes who gave their future for you and I.”
He told the crowd about two EBCI tribal members, Pfc. John Edward Oocumma and Sgt. John Burgess whose names do appear on the wall.
Pfc. Oocumma won a Silver Star, a Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge among other honors. He was killed in action on Feb. 16, 1967.
Sgt. Burgess won two Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge among other honors. He was killed in action on April 18, 1969.
“Cherokees have always stood tall in the uniform,” said Blankenship. We will never forget our heroes. They gave their tomorrows for our todays.”
One special part of Friday’s event was an appearance by several members of the Vietnamese Montagnard tribe. Members of that tribe helped U.S. Special Forces units in the early 1960s in the fight against communist aggression.
Many Montagnard emigrated from Vietnam to the United States during the turbulent time of the Vietnam War and after with many settling in what is referred to as the New Central Highlands of North Carolina.
Montagnard tribal members presented gifts to U.S. veterans during Friday’s event.
To view more photos from this event, visit the One Feather photo gallery at: