By COMMANDER LEW HARDING
This year, on Veteran’s Day, Friday, Nov. 11, our community celebrates the completion of a beautifully-redesigned and construction Veterans Memorial Park. It is a source of pride, recognition, and celebration. Our Tribal Executive leadership worked together on the initiative to honor all tribal members who have served their country in the United States military.
We deeply appreciate what they have done to lift up and honor those who have served. Our most honored tribal veteran, Medal of Honor recipient Charles George, will be front and center. A bronze sculptured statue of this brave young Cherokee will be dedicated and unveiled. All veterans, and all who know of his bravery, have been inspired by this young soldier’s gallantry in combat sacrificing his life for his brothers.
Coming home after military service, many of our veterans faced challenges and adjustments that others found difficult to understand. For some of those veterans, years were required for a healing process in the search for inner peace and understanding. Trying to cope with post-traumatic stress injury, that sometimes resulted from doing what they were trained and ordered to do, required focus and commitment.
Destroying human life violates a core principle of all faith traditions and of the human family. And yet, veterans are accorded respect, accolades, and honor for the very actions that created their pain. That paradox weighs heavily on many. There has got to be a better way. If our leaders continue the kind of short-sighted collective behavior that has been demonstrated in the past, we will be forever in conflict with other nations and ourselves. There will be no peace for our country or our veterans. And, we have seen the results for some who served, trying to heal the paint through unacceptable methods of numbing the pain. This destructive behavior has stayed with them for years, helped and perpetuated by the scourge of pain – killers that are sold in our pharmacies and our streets. We cannot heal if we cannot feel.
Many veterans have laid their lives on the line for freedom. And yet, coming home, they have found no freedom from their internalized self-perpetuating cycles of pain. We can do better. We are doing better.
The improvements made in the Veterans Administration rehabilitation programs in recent years are encouraging. Our Charles George VA Center in Asheville has led the way. It is one of the best, if not the best, in the country. Our tribal commitment to bring VA services to our new hospital will be a blessing to many of our older veterans. For that, we are deeply grateful.
Following the eleven o’clock dedication ceremony at the Cherokee Veterans Memorial Park, the celebration will conclude in the exhibition hall with awards, music, and lunch. The ladies of the American Legion Auxiliary from Cherokee Post 143 will serve.
Come and be with us as we stand together and prayerfully strive for a greater peace and honor those who honored us.
Harding is the Commander of the Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143.