By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
On the Veterans’ Memorial, in front of the tribal finance office and council house, engraved in granite, are the names of all enrolled members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians who served in the armed forces and have passed away. My birth father’s name is there, as is my grandfather and great grandfather. Many of us have loved ones who have served the nations, both America and Cherokee. We, as a people, have a proud tradition of service and of honoring those who served.
Next week, two important memorial dates will occur. The 240th birthday of the United States Marine Corps is on Tuesday, Nov. 10. I know you are familiar with the greeting among Marines of “Semper Fi!” Here is how marines.com explains the saying, “Semper Fidelis distinguishes the Marine Corps bond from any other. It goes beyond teamwork—it is a brotherhood that can always be counted on. Latin for ‘always faithful’, Semper Fidelis became the Marine Corps motto in 1883. It guides Marines to remain faithful to the mission at hand, to each other, to the Corps and to country, no matter what”.
The second of those dates in Veterans Day, Wednesday, Nov. 11. “Veterans’ Day is also celebrated in other parts of the world, where it is known as either Remembrance Day or Armistice Day. It was on the 11th of November, 1918 that the Germans signed the Armistice to mark the end of the First World War, and therefore, the day became known as Armistice Day (Gettysburg.com).”
From that beginning, Veteran’s Day has evolved into a time of remembrance of all those who have served, whether by volunteer or draft, to do public service in the armed forces. Combat or non-combat assignments, they serve and served in defense of the freedoms that we enjoy.
There have been many men and women in my life who have taken up the responsibility for freedom and joined the military. Many of the people who have known the horrors of battle will not speak of those times. Some are silent because they don’t want to relive those dark moments. Others are keeping a silent trust to those who went through the “valley of the shadow” with them and possibly didn’t make it out.
Many of those who served in the military retired from service and go into civil service. Many of our great political leaders, Principal Chiefs, Vice Chiefs and Tribal Council representatives throughout the history of the Eastern Band of Cherokee have had a tour of duty in the armed forces. Some have chosen to continue to give back to the communities they love while continuing to honor and serve those men and women of military service, both active and retired.
One great example is Warren “Hoppy” Dupree (United States Army-Retired), who currently serves as special projects coordinator for the Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143. As an EBCI tribal member, he has a special place in his heart for Cherokee community veterans and all of those who have served. You can see that in the numerous projects that Warren gets involved in, all on a volunteer basis. Warren is most comfortable doing behind-the-scenes work and doesn’t gravitate toward the spotlight. However, he found himself there last year as he was recognized by his peers as Legionnaire of the Year. Steve Youngdeer Post 143 Commander Lew Harding was quoted as saying, “I have never seen or been blessed to experience the enthusiasm, initiative and leadership that brother Hoppy has brought to us.”
Warren’s heart, as are the thousands of others currently serving or having served in the military, is a heart of service to his family (which includes his brothers and sisters in arms), community and country.
I visit the Veteran’s Memorial many times throughout the year. I am reminded of the veterans’ sacrifice every time I walk through any graveyard, where I typically find markers with emblems from one of the service branches and dates of service etched into them. In our everyday journeys, we see men and women with hats and shirts with messages of military connection. Seeing men and women in uniform brings a special sense of pride in country and humble recognition of their bravery and dedication.
Every day of our lives, we should be thankful for the devotion to freedom that the men and women of the military embody. In the Holy Bible, there is a verse that states, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13)”.
Whether it is over a period of years or in a moment, soldiers exemplify those words from scripture. As we approach those special days of recognition, we should make every effort to show these heroes of our tribe and country the appreciation and affection they so richly deserve.