Patriot - Reflections of Vietnam Veterans.
Patriot. What is a Patriot? The wonderful book of Webster has enlightened me on the word. Patriot; a person who is loyal and faithful to his country, one who loves his country, a fellow countryman. With that now defined, I must share with you, a story of patriotism, through reflections of Vietnam Veterans.
In my kitchen the other night, were five men. All these men are part Indian from one Nation or another, Lakota, Apache and so on. They all had a bond with each other, not just because they are Sundance brothers, but because they all were snipers or tunnel rats from the Vietnam War. All five of these guys were in the heart of the matter when they were barely men. They stood their grounds and did what they were told so to survive, and they did it for the love of their country.
But it is not for the love of government, but for the love of this land and the People! Their People! Their Country!
As I met each man, I could see a cloudy veil in each of their eyes. I sometimes see this look in my own companion who made up the fifth Vet. Four of them drove all day and night to reach our home. Coffee was beginning to perk and the aroma filled the room, but it was the excitement of seeing a fellow comrade that kept their adrenaline pumping.
I offered each one coffee and it was accepted with thankfulness and a smile. Being Indian, you never say no to such hospitality. As they all began to slowly gather in chairs around the table, I took a moment to shake each one’s hand, to say “Thank You, for what you did”. I looked each one in the eye and said, “Since it was a Veteran’s Holiday, I would like to shake your hand and thank you.”
With this respect and recognition, the cloudy veil in everyone’s eyes lifted and there were sparkles behind those heavy lids. After a bit of small talk among the circle, I eased on out of the kitchen and sat in the next room with my laptop. Occasionally I would hear bits and pieces of the conversations. One talked about how disappointed and shocked he was when he came home in a parade and was spat on. He said he remembered crying.
Mostly they talked about recent memories. All of these men bounced off of each other as they told stories. A lot of laughter was floating in the air of the trailer that evening. A lot of healing was crossing the kitchen table top and those cups of coffee.
All five of these men are to continue a journey to the southwest corner of the country. These men walk the Red Road, and are proud of who they are. Today, they are defending the Native Indian Spirit and this beautiful Native Land, their Country! Each one of them has overcome odds! Alcohol, drugs, physical and mental abuse…each one is sure to have their stories. But just like they did in the bushes of Vietnam, and like some of their Grandfathers and Grandmothers did, when the Calvary was moving across this great land, they survived. They overcame. They will overcome again!
They are survivors, because they are warriors in their hearts.
This evening I had the company of five men who risked their lives in another country and followed through on what so grossly crossed their morals, their beliefs. These men were placed in a catch 22 situation. As a result, they have become warriors with veils covering their eyes. They have seen things, no one should ever see.
These men pray. These men cry. These men give praise through song and ceremony to the Creator. In each one of them I see a Patriot. A man who loves his country, the land and the People. This is the place of his relatives, his family. People who understand him, who love him. A place where his ancestors once defended their home, the land, the People. The day these men came home from the war was the day they became Warriors. Warriors for the People, themselves, this land and respect for the fellow human being.
The next few days, these men will travel together and bring about good medicine for the other. They will smudge with sage, they will smoke their prayer pipes and they will cleanse themselves in an inipi, a sweat lodge. But for now, they hang over a hot cup of coffee and some warm vegetable soup, all around the kitchen table and begin the mending of fellow Patriots.
I was honored to be around these men, these Patriots, these Warriors! Let us never forget those who have defended our freedom and right to live our lives. This is what I saw in the reflections of these Vietnam Veterans.
Whoopila! Whoopila! Whoopila! Whoopila!
Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!