“Telling the Stories of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community”

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“Telling the Stories of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community”

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December 5, 2022

Community Veterans Recognized at Event to Honor Service 

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On November 11, Veterans Day, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community came together to celebrate the service of Community-member veterans of the armed forces. Families of SPRMIC veterans came out to the Two Waters complex to honor their service. 

This marked the first public event that the Community has been able to celebrate since the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also a chance to recognize those veterans who have passed on in the past couple of years. 

“We are glad that you are here this morning to celebrate and honor our veterans who served in the nation’s armed forces,” said master of ceremonies and Community member Pacer Reina, who served in the U.S. Army, 82nd Airborne Division. 

Reina’s opening remarks were followed by an opening blessing by Council Representative Tom Largo. Largo, who also is a U.S. Army veteran, prayed over the men and women who put on the uniform to serve their country. 

Members of SRPMIC’s American Legion Post 114 (Bushmasters) posted the colors while Miss Salt River Nani Reina sang the national anthem and Junior Miss Salt River Tirsa Reina recited the Pledge of Allegiance. 

SRPMIC President Martin Harvier welcomed the veterans and civilians in the audience. “As civilians recognizing our veterans, each year the time comes when we recognize them for their service and the freedoms they fought for that we enjoy today,” said Harvier. 

He said, “We enjoy the things that we have in this country, and we are truly blessed as a country and as a community. You can look at the back pages in the O’odham Action News and you can see all of the Community members who put on that uniform to represent not only the Community, but this country.” 

“Native Americans serve in the United States Armed Forces [at a rate] five times the national average,” said SRPMIC Vice-President Ricardo Leonard. “For a community which has persevered through decades of challenges, American Indians remain steadfast in their defense of the United States as members of the armed forces.” 

From the battlefields of the Revolutionary War to the beaches of Normandy on D-Day and the frontlines of today, Leonard said, American Indian and Alaska Native people have answered the call to arms when the nation needed them. In every conflict and war, American Indians have joined on their own terms and were ready to step up to answer the call of duty. Leonard spoke of their willingness to go into the armed forces during the Vietnam War, when young men across the nation were drafted into the service. 

“Of the 42,000 Native Americans who served in the Vietnam War, 90% of them were volunteers, making them the demographic with the highest rate of voluntary enlistment throughout the entire war in Vietnam,” said Leonard. 

He said American Indians have served in larger numbers than any other ethnicity in the country since September 11, 2001, averaging 19% of the armed forces. American Indians have served at the front of every conflict and are selfless in their performance as soldiers, sailors, airmen/airwomen and Marines. 

After Leonard’s remarks, Reina and Miss Indian Arizona 2nd Attendant Emile Eich, a member of the Navajo Nation, read the names and service branches of the SRPMIC veterans. Eich said that she was thankful for the invitation from the Community to read the names of its veterans and thank them for their service. 

The event concluded with a closing prayer by Council Representative David Antone and a cultural presentation by Bird Singing and Dancing by the River and the SRPMIC Traditional Dancers. A special gift was presented to the veterans in attendance, who were treated to a meal inside the Round House Café with family and friends.