By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Mary Ann Welch Thompson has received a state award honoring her service to the country. Thompson, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) from the Big Cove Community, received the annual veterans award from the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs (NCCIA) during a ceremony at the Cherokee Veterans Park on the morning of Saturday, May 18.
The award was presented to Thompson by Sam Lambert, an EBCI tribal member and chairperson of the NCCIA Veterans Committee. “I can’t thank of anyone who’s come back and been more honorable than this lady with her community. All the way back, when we started the Tsalagi Warriors, back in the old days, she was active with us in trying to get all this started.”
Thompson, a former Big Cove Tribal Council representative, served in the U.S. Air Force from 1977-80 as part of the Civil Engineering Squadron. “I’m so shocked and surprised, and I didn’t understand what I did to deserve anything like this…with my little contributions, trying to help out in the community, I didn’t even think anyone even noticed. I do appreciate it, and I’m very thankful, and I appreciate my family coming to celebrate this award.”
After completing basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, she was stationed at March Air Force Base in Riverside, Calif. where she received training in heavy equipment operation. “Our mission would have been that, in a war zone, we would have kept that air field up.”
Big Cove Rep. Perry Shell, a U.S. Army veteran, said, “Honoring Mary today is appropriate. I know that she has given, not only to her country, but to her family and to the community as well.”
He praised her work ethic. “She’s not afraid to pick up a shovel. She’s not afraid to pick up a hammer. She’s not afraid to pick up a weed eater. She’s not afraid of hard work. She’s not afraid of giving back. She doesn’t make a lot of excuses…I don’t think you could find a better recipient of this recognition than Mary.”
Vice Chief Alan B. Ensley commented, “I served with Mary on Council and I know how hard she works. She’s always worked very hard for the community, her Tribe, and just anybody that needed help…I want to thank Mary Ann for all of her hard work, and I’ve enjoyed our friendship over the years. This honor is very deserving.”