By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
“According to the Department of Defense, American Indians and Alaska Natives have one of the highest representations in the armed forces.” -U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
A few fast facts, courtesy of History.com…
- 1 million living veterans served during at least one war.
- 6 million veterans served in peacetime.
- 7 million veterans served during the Vietnam War
- 5 million veterans served during the Persian Gulf War
- 2 million veterans served in the Korean War
736,000 veterans live in North Carolina, which is 9.8 percent of the total population of the state. Of those, 475,000 served in one war, 70,000 served in two wars, and 2,600 served in three wars. 7,200 of the veterans who live in North Carolina are American Indian/Alaska Native.
Many of the people who are alive today don’t know or understand anything about war, veterans, and the significance of the day we call Veterans Day.
Veterans Day coincides with the celebration of “Armistice Day,” a day marking a cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918”. As other wars and conflicts arose, the name of Armistice Day was changed to All Veterans Day and then shortened to Veterans Day.
Fights between people are familiar. Let someone challenge something another person has passionate feelings about, and it doesn’t take much for a fight to break out. In a match, some may fight with fists and body. Others may pick up blunt instruments and try to beat each other with those. Knives and guns are sometimes used in disagreements between people. Nations often disagree on how their people will be governed or have disputes over land and other properties. When negotiations fail, physical fights, or wars, break out. In anticipation of having to fight, nations enlist their people into standing armies to be ready to engage in battle to defend their people or property, or to engage opposing armies. We called upon; soldiers engage in fighting to defend the cause or country of their allegiance.
War is defined in Webster’s as “a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations.” This a sterile definition, especially to those who have been in the service. For a service person, the threat that they will be directly impacted by war is a real concern every day.
General William Tecumseh Sherman, during the Civil War, uttered the famous words, “War is hell.” Battlefields across the globe attest to the validity of Sherman’s words. During the battle, bullets are flying, bombs exploding, fires raging, and bayonets slicing. After the battle, there is blood, bodies in different states of completeness, and the smell of death and dying. Ask a veteran who has served on the battlefield during wartime about his experience, and you will get very little detail. None want to relive those terrible days. Many come home to completely altered lives, arriving home to find that the people they knew have gone on with life without them and are not interested in reestablishing a relationship with them. Some come home and bring the battlefield experience with them, finding it impossible to assimilate back into “normal” society. Some come home to learn how to live without legs, arms, or sight.
Families of men and women in service live each day with the possibility of their loved one never coming home. Whether across the nation or in a foreign land, soldiers are in a high-risk profession. They regularly train for the defense of the people and country, with weapons designed to kill and massively destroy. Many live-in environments where they are in a minority of Americans, not know who the enemy is or whether they will be around the next corner. The life of a soldier and his family members is one of much worry and fear.
From the troops who work support duties to active combat, the men and women of the armed forces are a special breed of people who put country and protection of those in it, before their safety and lives. They stand in the gap between us and those who would take our freedom away, or maybe our very lives.
Service to community and humanity comes in many forms, but the most obvious is that of the armed forces soldier.
November 11 this year falls on a Sunday. The Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143, who puts on the Veterans Day celebration each year in Cherokee, has moved the date of the celebration to Saturday, Nov. 10, in respect to the Sunday religious services. Since the tradition is for the ceremony to begin at 11 am, it would be in direct conflict with when most houses of worship start services. The activities on Nov. 10 will be at the Exhibit Hall of the Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds. Although most of us have never had to experience the horrors of war, all of us know service members. All of us may even have family members who took up the challenge to serve. If you do, and you wish to honor them, come to the Veterans Day celebration at the Fairgrounds on Nov. 10. It is the least we can do for those who gave so much when the needs of the many outweighed their own needs and lives.