Veterans honored at 111th Cherokee Indian Fair

by Oct 7, 2023NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments


One Feather Asst. Editor


CHEROKEE, N.C. – Veterans of all branches of the United States Armed Forces were honored during activities at the 111th Cherokee Indian Fair in Cherokee, N.C. on Friday, Oct. 6.  The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) Veterans Honor Day event began with a Veteran’s Walk followed by a luncheon and an honoring program.


Prior to lunch beginning, Big Cove Rep. Perry Shell, U.S. Army retired, spoke, “You all not only represent the best of the United States of America, but you also represent the best of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. If it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t be or have all the many things and all the freedoms that we have now. I appreciate your individual sacrifices, your willingness to give yourselves to a cause greater than yourselves. I appreciate every one of you.”

SgtMaj. Johnny Baker, junior past national commandant of the Marine Corps League, and EBCI Principal Chief Michell Hicks salute during the singing of the “Star Spangled Banner” by Jody Medford during a Veterans Honor Day at the 111th Cherokee Indian Fair on the afternoon of Friday, Oct. 6. (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photos)

He added, “Every year, there’s fewer and fewer of us here and I’d love to see that change. I would love to see that change. You know, the military did more for me getting away from here than anything else I’ve ever done in my life.”

Dvdaya Swimmer, an EBCI tribal member and sophomore at Cherokee High School, sung the “Cherokee National Anthem” to start the main honoring program.  This was followed by Jody Medford singing “The Star Spangled Banner” and then an invocation by 1SG Charles Penick, an EBCI tribal elder and U.S. Army retiree.

Principal Chief Michell Hicks noted, “It’s always a privilege to be side-by-side with our veterans community. We appreciate your service. We appreciate especially all that you do for the community.”

He related that he is working with his staff to identify ways that the Tribe and his office can help out the EBCI veterans community.

Gregory Hunt, a member of the Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143 and U.S Marine Corps retiree, served as the emcee for Friday’s event.  “We loved our country enough to defend it and protect it with our own life. We said goodbye to friends and family and everything we knew.”

“We fought for our freedom as well as the freedom of others. Some of us saw actual combat and some of us didn’t. Some of us saw the world and some of us didn’t.”

He went on to say, “We have seen and experienced and dealt with things that we can’t fully describe or explain. Not all of our sacrifices were physical…we know that, if needed, we will be there for our brothers and sisters and stand together in one heartbeat. Being a veteran is something that had to be earned, and it can never be taken away. It has no monetary value, but, at the same time, it is a priceless gift.”

Sharon French, an EBCI tribal elder, and former EBCI Principal Chief Joyce Dugan listen as Gregory Hunt, a Marine Corps veteran and member of the Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143, reads information about French who was given the Chapel of the Four Chaplains Legion of Honor Award from the Marine Corps League.

Hunt also recognized Lew Harding, Post 143 commander for the past 26 years.  Commander Harding was unable to attend Friday’s event, but Hunt displayed for the crowd a U.S. flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Capt. Cynthia Mason Womble, U.S. Navy retired, performed the POW/MIA ceremony and an empty table setting was placed on stage.  “The chair is empty. They are not here. The POW/MIA flag is posted to mourn the fact that many of our comrades will not return to our shores and to pay tribute to those who have passed on”

“Until the day they come home, we will look upon this empty table not to remember ghosts from the past, but to remember our comrades.”

There were three guest speakers at the event including: SgtMaj. Johnny Baker, junior past national commander of the Marine Corps League; Barbara Nobile, past national president and present national chaplain of the Marine Corps League Auxiliary; and Dr. Vivianne Cisneros Wersel, a Gold Star wife and member of the Surviving Spouse Council.

SgtMaj. Baker noted, “For all American Legion members sitting out there in the audience, you should be very proud of your Post. Everyone in this group sitting here, you should be very proud of who you

are, and why you’re sitting here right now today.”

“I wish we, in our community, had this same spirit where the community got our veterans together and do what you do here today. I’m very proud of what you’ve got here, and very envious of what you’re doing. Hopefully I can take this back and emulate it for our commmunity, too.”

EBCI First Lady Marsha Hicks presents an embroidered hat, courtesy of the Office of the Principal Chief, to Tunney Crowe, an EBCI tribal member.

Nobile commented, “To all the veterans and their families, and to my wonderful American Legion sisters out there, I just cannot praise you enough for what you do.”

“I learned high respect for our veterans as I listened to their stories from an early age.”

Dr. Wersel commented, “I stand before you today with deep respect for the brave veterans committed to serving the U.S. military. Your unwavering dedication reflects a profound commitment to our nation’s defense from World War I and World War II, to Code Talkers, to the 1 percent of Americans who answered the call, raised their right hand, and swore to serve their country.”

During the event, Sharon French, an EBCI tribal elder, was presented with the Chapel of the Four Chaplains Legion of Honor Award from the Marine Corps League.  Jimmy “Weasel” Arch, a member of the Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143, was not present for the event but also received the honor which will be presented to him at a later date.

At the end of the program 1SG Penick read the EBCI Roll Call of those tribal members who were killed in action in various wars.  Capt. Cynthia Mason Womble, U.S. Navy retired, rang the bell in honor of the fallen as 1SG Penick read the names.