By Roy Cook, AIWA President
Each year we look forward with anticipation and respectful responsibility when we participate in the Memorial Day activity at the Santa Ysabel ceremony at the Tribal cemetery. American Indian Warriors Association Honor Guard posted all our eight flags and was accompanied by our AIWA auxiliary for an outstanding showing! Tribal Chairperson John Hernandez and event organizer Bonnie Salgado welcomed all to the event and John recognized two Tribal Veterans and their families: Augustine Cuevas, US Army Air force and Muriel Guassic Hayward, US Air Force. Ron Christman and Stan Rodriguez, both military veterans, sang Honoring Tucuk Bird songs. Santa Ysabel fallen warriors were remembered and a ships bell was rung for each by a retired boatswains mate as Stan Rodriguez read their names. Also this year AIWA is pleased to offer an appropriate Veteran song and gift the tribe with a brass bell for their future use at memorials.
This is a day of respect for our fallen warriors everywhere and it is tied together with traditional tribal hospitality and generosity. Indian events on Indian land for and by Indian people are the best times. We extend our appreciation to those AIWA members and family who represented the organization in respectful attendance and service to our Indian veterans. It does not get better than that. There is a perceived spiritual quality to the day that exceeds: Pow wows, parades, films fairs or the beach. Fallen Warriors of many conflicts are not forgotten in the hearts of their Tribal relatives. We must always remember that our Indian Veterans of the Military who gave so much so that our people may enjoy the freedom to be ourselves. Our Indian land is forever Indian land. It matters little what others say or what paper labels nor what legalism defines or fences separate. It is all Indian land. The Grandfathers said so.
Many Santa Ysabel members attending knew the boys I grew up with from Santa Ysabel. Most of us had served in some branch of the military. This Memorial Day as we drove through the turns and valleys of the mist and mountains to Santa Ysabel I am reminded of the historical significance of the location. It seems to me as I move forward that each turn of the road is as I can look back and see a page of the history of California. Later I have a similar feeling, standing in the flag row of the Honor Guard, you need only to look across the tribal members faces assembled at the Santa Ysabel Memorial Day ceremony to see the true richness of the state reflected. I am referring to the true value inherited and not extracted from the natural resources. Songs, stories, family, culture and language are indeed the true richness of the golden state. Further, it is not the miles or time that we travel on this journey into North county but the insight into the heritage of the State and the political basis of this Nation in the modern age.
Many of us, in my generation, came through the experience of the Southeast Asia era. In that time, over there and over here: we each represented each other in our military roles. In that time, national attitudes coming back into the civilian world were not at all nice to returning veterans. It is still taking a goodly amount of time for many of us to see our way clear to accept the fact that we are alive and it is OK to be so.
Amazingly, there is a cathartic experience that occurs each and every time we get together. Thank you for allowing me this day, to experience this AIWA band of brothers, a little bent, a little bruised but still willing to help each other out. These experiences are much as those we recall in active service with our military buddy on the line and at our side. What a great bunch of guys and gals- All Warriors.
we will see you at the next American Indian Warriors Association event.