By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
December 7, 1941 marked the first time that foreign forces attacked a state of the United States. The Japanese planned a sneak attack on America, a preemptive strike to weaken our country as we contemplated entry into the second World War. Just the mention of this date brings images to mind, black and white images of burning and sinking ships, floating uniformed bodies, and tattered flags. The country went from a state of mourning, to a state of rage, and then to a mindset of resolve. Those lives lost would not be allowed to be taken in vain. The devastating blow that the Japanese thought they had delivered to America became a rallying point for millions of Americans to engage in a country-wide crusade. The mantra for America throughout the war was “Remember Pearl Harbor!”.
Throughout the history of the United States, men and women have stepped up to provide national service by participating in the armed forces. Many of those men and women have been Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians tribal members. If you visit the veterans’ memorial located beside Tsali Boulevard, you’ll see the extensive list of those who have passed. Granite slabs etched with over 1,100 names of friends and kin. Every community and clan is represented among the names etched in stone.
Among those who served and are still with us are the men and women of Steve Youngdeer Post 143, Cherokee warriors who served with honor in the armed forces. We still get the privilege of seeing these soldiers in action as they work, many times on a volunteer basis, in our communities, and through ceremonies in which they bear the colors of our Tribe and of America.
Unless you are looking, you rarely see a vet. They may wear a cap or sport a jacket with their campaign or battalion patches on it, but they are typically quiet and don’t gravitate to public forums to a great degree. For many, it is a matter of honor and pride to stand for and help others, and they feel like they can’t do that to their best ability if someone is having to take care of them. So, they battle their giants alone. They certainly have a brotherhood amongst themselves, esprit de corps, but they refuse to be a burden to each other and many of our aging veterans are the strong, silent types that won’t ask for what they think is a hand-out, even from a brother-in-arms.
The holidays can be a lonely, depressing time for our aging population, and particularly for our elderly veterans. This is also true of our families who have active duty servicepersons who are deployed away from home. Look for opportunities to share love and appreciation to those who gave up a portion or all of their lives in defense of freedom and provided the environment that we flourish in today. It doesn’t take much time, money, or effort to make a veteran’s holiday brighter. If you see a veteran in a restaurant, offer to buy his meal. If you are next to a vet in a grocery line, buy her groceries for her. If you live next door to a veteran, offer to help decorate their home for Christmas. Give to your local veteran assistance organizations. Encourage your friends who are veterans to get their information to the American Legion post. The number is 497-9647. The post has programs and services that our vets to help vets in need. Most of all, share your time with a veteran. They will cherish nothing more than the opportunity for a little human interaction and sincere conversation.
December 7 reminds us of the sacrifices of those who stand in the breech. It didn’t matter if you were a cook in the kitchen of a naval destroyer, an engineer working on a battleship motor, or a Seaman Recruit mopping the deck of a PT boat, when the bombs started exploding and the bullets started hitting. All were soldiers in the line of fire. As we remember those who have served and are serving, let’s pay back a little of what we owe.