Veterans Welcomed Home at National Vietnam Veterans Day Dinner

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The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Veterans Services department welcomed home Native Vietnam veterans for the National Vietnam War Veterans Day dinner on March 22 at the Courtyard by Marriott Scottsdale Salt River.

“We gather here to honor and show our gratitude to the brave warriors who served in the Vietnam War and during the Vietnam era,” said SRPMIC Veterans Representative Amanda White, who was grateful that the dinner event was being held in the Community.

“It is rare to have such an opportunity to honor all our [sister tribes] and neighboring tribes of Native Vietnam veterans who have traveled to be here with us today.”

White and fellow Veterans Representative Troy Truax Jr. were the hosts for the event.

“Young Native Americans saw the Vietnam War as their chance to prove their mettle and win the respect of their elders and peers,” said Truax. “They had undoubtedly heard tales from their fathers and grandfathers about their participation in the Korean War and other global conflicts.”

Army veteran and former SRPMIC Council member Tom Largo opened the event with a prayer to recognize the men and women who have served in the different military branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Former Miss Salt River Isabella Dockerty sang the national anthem in O’odham while members of American Legion Post #84 posted the colors.

Later, two members of the SRPMIC Young Warriors group, Aiyanah Lerma and Rezny Nash, conducted a POW/MIA remembrance ceremony.

“As you entered the banquet hall this evening, you may have noticed a small table, in a place of honor,” said Lerma, pointing to a table that Nash stood next to.

“It is set for one. This table is a way of symbolizing the fact that members of our profession are missing from our midst. They are unable to be with us this evening, and so we remember them.”

While everyone ate dinner, the Chi’Chino Spirit O’odham dancers performed a quail dance, among other dances, and told stories about the dances. Robert Chiago and Thomas Jones were the keynote speakers for the event.

“One of the most painful chapters in the country’s history was the Vietnam War. Most of us who had served in Vietnam came back and we were not very welcome, it seemed,” said Chiago.

“While in Vietnam, some of us were exposed to Agent Orange and [developed] various kinds of ailments, such as prostate cancer. It’s still affecting those of us who may have served in Vietnam.”

Jones also talked about what it was like when he came home from Vietnam.

“When I came home, the war didn’t stop for me. I got elected to the Council. They were trying to build a dam on our reservation, and so I had to go fight to save our land,” said Jones.

“We still have veterans that serve and deserve a better way of life. You can’t stop fighting just because you’re doing good now. Because that fight is still going to come our way again.”

To round out the event, SRPMIC President Martin Harvier presented challenge coins and read aloud a proclamation passed by the SRPMIC Council that observes National Vietnam War Veterans Day on March 29 every year.

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