By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Asst. Editor
CHEROKEE, N.C. – Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces were honored during an event at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in the Council Fire Ballroom at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort. The Veteran’s Day event was hosted by the Steve Youngdeer American Post 143 and was held on the traditional day of Nov. 11 which represents Armistice Day (Nov. 11, 1918) – the day World War I ended.
Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, gave the keynote speech. “It is fitting that we are gathered here today to offer honor, respect, and gratitude for our heroes and heroines – the veterans of the armed forces of these United States. It is fitting because we should not wait until someone has passed away. We have a day for that – Memorial Day. It is fitting that we do so while our heroes and heroines are still with us to offer words of gratitude and acknowledge their life’s work. I believe it is more appropriate to acknowledge the extraordinary work of an individual while they’re still with us, and for good reason. First and foremost, in this nation today, we need strong, positive role models today. I think we can all agree that it is sorely lacking. From Washington, DC on down, leadership seems to be in short supply.”
Chief Sneed spoke of the need for virtues and values and noted, “I firmly believe that if this nation – both the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and these United States – if we are to survive and thrive in the coming days, there must be a return to the values that have brought us through some of the toughest times in our history. The irony of our circumstances is that each generation strives to make life better, easier for their children, easier than we had it, to give them more than we had. The unfortunate outcome is that, generally speaking, this model does not produce the character and virtues that will sustain a nation through difficult times.”
He added, “Author G. Michael Hopf summed it up best when he said, ‘Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And weak men create hard times’.”
Prior to presenting several awards, Lew Harding, Post 143 commander, commented, “We appreciate each and every one of you coming. It’s a joy to be here. It’s not only a duty, it’s a joy. I thank you for coming.”
Col. Bob Blankenship (U.S. Army Ret.), an elder of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), was presented with a Quilt of Valor from the Post. In addition, four Post members were named Legionnaires of the Year including: Jeff Marcum, Jack Walkingstick, Jimmy Arch, and Frank Cucumber.
Four esteemed community leaders received the American Legion Women in Leadership, Exemplary Service Award including: Carla Neadeau, Cherokee Indian Police Dept. chief of police; Patsy Ledford, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 143 president; Dr. Debora Foerst, Cherokee High School principal; and Sandy Cloer, EBCI Tribal TANF director.
Ledford praised the work of the Auxiliary Unit 143, “They work every day in some aspect to recognize and to honor our veterans. And, that’s what we are about – to serve and honor our veterans. For me to receive this award, I must say, is due to the ladies in the Auxiliary. They keep me going. They give me the lifeline to make me want to do, and it is for you guys, you veterans, and in memory of my husband that it is such an honor to be here. Thank you all. I love you and I appreciate you. I appreciate the service you performed for the United States of America.”
Several EBCI tribal programs received an American Legion Certificate of Achievement for their service to the community including: Cherokee Indian Police Dept., Cherokee Fire Dept., Cherokee EMS, and the Cherokee One Feather.
Gregory Hunt, Post 143 member and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, read the “Veteran’s Anthem”, and Warren Dupree, Post 143 service officer and a veteran of three branches of service, read an Army Commendation Medal with “V” device citation for the late Clarence “Les” Murphy, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and a Vietnam Veteran.
Hunt then read a listing of all of the EBCI tribal members who have been killed in action as follows:
World War I: Steve Youngdeer (US Army), Joe Kalonaheskie (US Army)
World War II: Boyd Catt (US Army), Jacob Cornsilk (US Army), Adam West Driver (US Marine Corps), James R. Lambert (US Army), Samuel William Otter (US Navy), Blaine Queen (US Army), Mark Rattler (US Marine Corps), Isaac Ross (US Army), Joshua Shell (US Army), Sheridan Smith (US Marine Corps), Vernon George Sneed (US Army), William Taylor (US Navy), Enos Thompson (US Army), Jeremiah Toineeta (US Army), Robert Austin Wahneeta (US Marine Corps)
Korea: Charles Arch (US Marine Corps), Charles George (US Army, Medal of Honor recipient)
Vietnam: John Burgess (US Army), John Edward Oocumma (US Army)
Several musical presentations were included in Friday’s program including Kristi Wheatley who sang “Hallelujah” and Phyllis Shell, a veteran of the U.S. Army, who sang “An Honor to Serve”.