Letter: Remember Indian veterans on Memorial Day
"On certain autumnal days when a cold wind sweeps through the region, mountain people swear you can hear the sounds of people singing and babies crying; the ghosts of the Cherokee people forcibly rounded up and incarcerated in concentration camps in the 1830’s. They were victims of the Removal Act of 1830, an apartheid-like policy of ethnic cleansing and relocation enacted to slake the thirst for land of Southern plantation owners and speculators. While waiting months inside shelterless stockades for their future to be decided, adult voices were often raised in song (hymns). They drowned out those of their babies, raised not in praise of God, but in anguish from hunger.

Two years ago March, the voice of a Cherokee war hero was silenced. Billy Walkabout was the most decorated Native American soldier of the Vietnam War. His battle ribbons would have covered the front of his old Ranger uniform. Distinguished Service Cross, six Purple Hearts, five Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars with Valor, five Army Commendations for Valor and seven Air Medals.

He should have gotten the Congressional Medal of Honor. On Nov. 20, 1968, the 19-year old was on recon near Hue with 12 others behind enemy lines when they came under fire for four hours. His citation for the Distinguished Service Cross indicated that he simultaneously returned fire, helped wounded companions and carried other wounded onto evacuation helicopters though hit several times himself."

Get the Story:
Ray Lenarcic: Let’s remember Native Americans’ role this special day (The Utica Observer-Dispatch 5/24)