Opinion

Clara Caufield: Northern Cheyenne Tribe remembers warriors





Clara Caufield on the military tradition within the Northern Cheyenne Tribe of Montana:
Among all our wars and military conflicts, Vietnam was perhaps hardest on veterans. Yet, that did not stop Montanans from enlisting for that “conflict” at a very high rate. Montanans have one of the highest rates of voluntary military service in the nation and within that number, Native Americans have the highest enlistment rate of any ethnic group.

As a result of that conflict, Montana Native Americans count many military heroes. One of them is Johnny Joe Woodenlegs Jr., Northern Cheyenne, who has held the record for the Basic Training Overall Proficiency test for 44 years. No one in the Nation has topped his record since 1971. How did he do that?

“I don’t know,” Johnny modestly replied. “My father (a long-time tribal president) just told me to try and do my best.”

Johnny Joe also recalled: “There were no honor parades, songs or victory dances when we returned.”

The Northern Cheyenne recently bid farewell to another Vietnam veteran, Eugene Seminole, awarded 13 medals, including the Navy Cross, second highest medal bestowed by a grateful nation. Indeed, Eugene was one of the most highly decorated Vietnam veterans in the state of Montana. Sens. Jon Tester and John Walsh recently acknowledged his heroism in letters sent to the family for the final service.

Get the Story:
Clara Caufield: Native warriors honored for service to America (The Billings Gazette 5/26)