Seminole Tribune - Pulse of the Tribe

Volume XXX, Number 11
November 27, 2009

Women Recognized at Annual Veterans Day Celebration

BY NAJI TOBIAS- Staff Reporter

BIG CYPRESS — There was a particularly serious atmosphere at the Big Cypress Rodeo Entertainment Center, as attendees took ample time to pay their respects to those who have fought in the U.S. Armed Forces.

those who have fought in the U.S. Armed Forces. In what is one of the largest events held in Big Cypress annually, hundreds of people joined together in unity for the 22nd annual Veterans Day Celebration on Nov. 9. This year’s event centered on the role women have played in the military throughout history.

The program began with the Seminole Police Dept. Honor Guard making a grand entrance into the building. Following an invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance recited by Ahfachkee School students, 2009 Seminole Star Search winner Victoria “Tori” Osceola sang “The National Anthem.”

Tribal poet Moses “Bigg” Jumper Jr. next read his Veterans Day poem before perennial event emcee Dale Oldhorn introduced Chairman Mitchell Cypress. The Chairman offered some remarks on behalf of the veterans in attendance, himself included.

“Welcome home,” Chairman Cypress said to the veterans who attended, as everyone gave an ovation to those who served in the military. “You’re the reason why we have freedom today. As brothers and sisters, we all depend on each other.”

Board of Directors President Richard Bowers Jr., a Vietnam War veteran, was the next Tribal leader who spoke.

“It’s great to be here with the great warriors that are here today,” President Bowers said. “Any war is not popular. It takes lives and destroys families.”

He shared with the attendees about his experience in Vietnam War. His brothers, Big Cypress Board Rep. Paul Bowers Sr. and Stephen Bowers, both members of the Seminole Color Guard, fought alongside him during the war.

“It’s by the grace of God that everybody’s come back here alive today,” he said, noting that no Seminole Indian veteran lost their lives in the Vietnam War. “All of my veterans have steered me in the right directions and mentored me.”

The rest of the Tribal leaders in attendance were recognized and made remarks about the annual Veterans Day program. Ft. Pierce Liaison Sally R. Tommie also recited the poem “Four Hats to Remember.”

The Ahfachkee School Student Council representatives followed with a series of essays they read to commemorate Veterans Day, celebrated nationally on Nov. 11.

celebrated nationally on Nov. 11. The special guest of honor was retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Anile Adair Locust, who touched on her 22 years of service in the armed forces. A graduate from Chilocco Indian Boarding School in 1966, the Cherokee Tribal citizen later served in the Vietnam War. Anile, after talking about her experience, introduced the three other guest speakers, U.S. Navy Lt. Col. Connie Christensen (Ret.), Army Nurse Corp. Capt. Constance Evans and Army National Guard Major Vicki Lynn Jones (Ret.).

All three women spoke about their efforts made while serving in the Vietnam War, admitting it had a profound effect on each of their lives. When speaking, all of them tried to fi ght back tears as they gave harrowing accounts of how they witnessed the deaths of some of their fellow soldiers in the war.

Lt. Col. Christensen also talked about how women served as cooks and supports to the men of the U.S. Armed Forces in earlier wars. She also gave a historical account on the woman’s role in wars throughout U.S. history; saying more than 100,000 women have played a role in the makeup of the U.S. military of today.

“The important role of women in our nation’s defense cannot be overstated,” Lt. Col. Christensen said. “In the future, women will not only change the way our military forces are but our veterans as well.” Following this and other poignant messages from the guest speakers was a special humanitarian award presentation to Chairman Cypress. Major Jones gave the Chairman a painting of a Native American woman warrior for his efforts in recognizing veterans.

All of that led to perhaps the biggest honor of the celebration, a U.S. Veterans Acknowledgement plaque presented to U.S. Army veteran Joe Osceola Jr. from the Hollywood Reservation. Color Guard members Stephen Bowers and Rep. Paul Bowers Sr. presented the plaque.

“I want to thank the Seminole Tribe of Florida for recognizing all the veterans,” Osceola said. “I’m going to accept this award for all of you.” The Veterans Day celebration concluded with special recognition of all veterans, followed by a closing prayer, a moment of silence for the deceased veterans, a “Taps” performance and a lunch.

“It’s so emotional on all levels,” said Joanne Osceola, who is married to Seminole veteran O.B. Osceola Jr. “I’ve never attended a Native American veterans service like this.”