September 5, 2008
Share recognition with American Indian veterans
An estimated 100 people gathered at the Royal Scandinavian Inn in Solvang, Calif., Santa Barbara County, to honor fallen American Indian veterans at the U.S. Native Warrior exhibit on Aug. 23.
The 30-panel exhibit primarily honors World War II veterans, but does list the numbers of those who served and died in each major war, according to the Santa Ynez Valley Journal. One panel pays tribute to the estimated 95,500 American Indians who have served since World War II, with a total of 1,119 lives lost, the Journal said.
It is a little known fact that, historically, American Indians have the highest record of service per capita when compared with other ethnic groups. Unfortunately, while they hold the highest record of service per capita in comparison with other ethnic groups they are the least likely to receive veterans benefits.
I'm not sure if there is a breakdown in communication, or if there is blatant discrimination occurring, but it makes no sense at all that these veterans are not being taken care of when they risked life and limb for this country.
I was devastated to learn that benefits are not the only rewards being kept - inadvertently or not - from American Indian veterans. Many are not receiving their earned medals. Veterans from the Persian Gulf War in 1991 who were gassed are not being given Purple Hearts, especially the disabled who could no longer work and were discharged honorably out of the military within a few years. If veterans in World War I were given Purple Hearts for mustard gas, then veterans from the Persian Gulf who were exposed to mustard gas and sarin most certainly should be. If you agree, please sign the petition to Congress at www.petitiononline.com/vc6v4564/. Better yet, please attend the American Indian Veterans Town Hall meeting on Saturday at the Paiute Tribe of Utah Auditorium, 440 N. Paiute Drive. Beginning at 8 a.m., guest speakers will include Rudi Gresham, senior adviser to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in Washington D.C.; Juanita Mullen, VA American Indian veteran liaison in Washington D.C.; Terry Schow, director of Utah Division of Veterans Affairs; and Buck Richardson, Salt Lake City VA Medical Center.
Following remarks from these individuals the meeting will be open for comments from the public to engage the guest officials. Each individual is limited to five minutes at the microphone but it is recommended that any concerns or questions about Veterans Affairs be submitted in writing so submissions can be collected and directed to the appropriate VA representative. The meeting is scheduled to conclude at 11:30 a.m.
For more information, contact Lora Tom, Paiute Tribe of Utah chairwoman, at 586-1112.