NESPELEM - The Colville Confederated Tribes Veterans Program and Nespelem Ameri- can Legion Auxiliary Unit 114 hosted an honoring of veterans at the Colville Tribal Veterans Memorial in Nespelem Monday, bringing together nearly 35 trib- al veterans and their families.
“It’s really something that we can stand here today to enjoy the freedom of speech, that we in the Colville Tribe, that we have our culture, our language, and that we can choose our own destiny because we have freedom of choice, and all of this, we owe to our veterans, to those who served,” said Colville Business Council Chair Rodney Cawston, speaking at the event.
“Growing up, I heard many of our veterans stand up to talk, many of our native veterans, and disproportionately native people have served more than any oth- er race in the United States. I’d hear these veterans say it takes on so much more meaning to them and their families because this is their homeland.”
Following a presentation of colors, Barb Aripa, Little Miss Poppy Tahayma Redstar, Veronica Redstar, Janet Nich- olson, Lottie Atkins and Mary Vasquez laid wreaths at the monument, including at the new KIA/MIA memorial that was in- stalled in August in honor of Dale Lee Lambert and Michael Rich- ard Glasford, both of whom were killed in Vietnam.
“Today, we celebrate not only the veterans that are living here, but all of these names listed on the memorial,” said Colville trib- al elder Soy Redthunder, a veteran of the Vietnam War. “They served too, and there are young people now who are serving. We should be thankful for them also. As we remember our own service, we re- member how hard it is to be away from home, at any time, for how- ever long. So today, as we gather, we honor one another, but we also should remember the families that were left behind here when we went overseas. Their time was just as hard as ours was.”
Cawston, Redthunder and tribal veteran Larry Allen, a former CBC member, spoke following the lay- ing of the wreaths.
“As a Native American, growing up you have a really good support group,” said Allen. “It does take a village to raise a kid on the reserva- tion. Growing up, I lived in every district on this reservation except Keller. I lived here in Nespelem and made a lot of good friends. The thing about it, when you go over- seas, you really can’t forget about this place... The good thing about coming home is this is still our comfort zone, and the thing is the support that we get when we come home. That isn’t in every place in America. When we come back to our reservation, we still have our family, we still have our friends and we still have our tribe. That is a really awesome feeling.”
Following the event, veterans and families held a dinner at the Nespelem Long House.