Tag Archives: Veterans

Honoring the Achievements of Native Americans in the Military

Photo Courtesy: the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian

By Statepoint

Native Americans serve in the U.S. military at a higher rate per capita than any other population group and have done so since the American Revolution. Yet there is no monument or memorial in the Nation’s capital that commemorates the contributions of American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. This is finally changing, as the first memorial to their service is about to be built.

A private ceremony is slated for this fall, when the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian breaks ground on the National Native American Veterans Memorial on Sept. 21 in Washington, D.C.

“Throughout history, Native Americans have answered the call to serve in our nation’s armed forces,” says Kevin Gover (Pawnee), director of the National Museum of the American Indian. “This memorial will remind everyone who visits it of the service and patriotism of Native veterans and their families.”

A visit to Washington, D.C. is a great opportunity to experience U.S. history firsthand. The city is filled with grand monuments, world-class museums and memorials honoring those whose life’s work was in service to the nation.

Among the most visited memorials in the city are those honoring the nation’s veterans and the sacrifices they have made in service to the country. On any given day, thousands visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the World War II Memorial and the Korean War Veterans Memorial, among others, remembering those who served. And soon, these same visitors, will be able to visit one honoring the military service of Native Americans.

The new memorial, which was commissioned by Congress to give “all Americans the opportunity to learn of the proud and courageous tradition of service of Native Americans in the Armed Forces of the United States,” will be located on the grounds of the museum, within sight of the U.S. Capitol Building. It will be the first national landmark in Washington, D.C. to focus on the contributions of American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians who have served in the military.

The memorial design by Harvey Pratt (Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma), a multimedia artist, retired forensic artist and Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, features an elevated stainless-steel circle resting on an intricately carved stone drum. It also incorporates water for sacred ceremonies, benches for gatherings and four lances where veterans, family members, tribal leaders and others can tie cloths for prayers and healing.

The new memorial will be dedicated on Nov. 11, 2020, which is Veteran’s Day, in a public ceremony at the museum.

NORCO: Local War Hero’s Discuss Their Lives With JFK Students


On Feb. 28, eleven veterans from World War II and the Korean War sat around tables with students from John F. Kennedy Middle College High School conversing about their lives and experiences. The veterans came from all walks of life and all lines of service. One of the veterans served as a medic, another as a pilot of a B-17 bomber, and yet another as a machine gun operator in the South Pacific.

WII Veterans speak with students.

WII Veterans speak with students. (Photo Courtesy: Corona Norco Unified School District)

John Busma, 96, was very popular with the students, as he had been stationed aboard the U.S.S. Medusa the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was 24 at the time, and had been assigned to the Medusa to work as a Machinist 1st Class. Busma had just finished eating breakfast of what had been christened as S.O.S.—also known by the crew as “$#*! On a Slate”—when the first bombs were dropped. “I heard the distinctive boom of the explosions from below deck, and hurried topside to see what was happening. I looked up at the sky, saw the rising suns painted on the planes, and shouted, ‘Close the ports! The Japanese are here!’” He went on to say that throughout that day, he served as a medic and tried to help the wounded. “I would sometimes look up at the sky and see the bullets flying through the air as we returned fire on the Japanese planes. I never saw air warfare like that again.”

The students were able to learn about more than just the war from the stories being told. After running away from an Indian reservation in Arizona in 1946, Alberto Calderon joined the Marines. While still in service, he visited a restaurant in Texas where he was denied service. “There was a sign that said that there would be no service to Indians or Mexicans. It didn’t matter that I was fighting for our country.” Calderon felt that it was important to share that story with the students so that they could see how far the nation had come in the short time since the 1950’s. He, and many of the other veterans, thought that it was more important to paint a picture in the minds of the younger generation of how much our nation has grown, instead of how it reacted in a time of war.

The veterans enjoyed telling students about their time in the service, but what they seemed to enjoy most of all was talking about their personal lives, both before and after the war. One even brought pictures of himself when he first enlisted, and of his wife when they were first married. Busma talked about his love of photography, how he had taken many photographs throughout the duration of his service, and how he was unable to take a picture of the most beautiful sunset he had ever seen because his camera was locked up below decks while out at sea. Warren Vanderlinden, 86, talked about how much he enjoyed going to medical school, how he lived in Washington State for most of his life, and how he had moved to California to be with his children and grandchildren as they grew up.

While each veteran had their own unique experience and background, the majority had very similar views about the past and what the current generations can learn from it. They encouraged the students to remember and learn from the past, to live in the present, and strive to make the world a better place in the future. Warren Vanderlinden left his group of students with an inspirational thought. “I loved—and still love—my life. I experienced as much as I could, took nothing for granted, and tried to make a difference. I hope that each one of you has the chance to do the same.”