"One of the most memorably touching moments from my four decades of reporting news in South Dakota took place on the main street of Eagle Butte on a chilly late-November afternoon during a memorial service for Pfc. Sheldon Hawk Eagle.
Hawk Eagle was 21 when he died in a helicopter crash in Iraq. He was a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, a descendant of Crazy Horse and a soldier in the 101st Airborne at the time of his death. The memorial service began with a walk from the veterans’ center at the west edge of town, along U.S. Highway 212 to the main Eagle Butte intersection, and then a slow hike up a gradual incline to the high school, where the formal ceremony would take place.
It was a raw, gray day. Saddle leather creaked as horses clopped along beside a wooden buckboard that carried the flag-draped casket of the Lakota soldier. A few pebbles crunched under the wheels of the buckboard. Other than that and the shuffle of many feet, the only sound was the wind through the power line near the road, the sharp snort of the horses and the quiet sobs of some of the mourners matching their strides to the gait of the horses.
As the procession neared the high school, the winter clouds parted and the sun played over the heads and shoulders of the mourners. The temperature changed not at all, but the brief splash of sunlight created an illusion of warmth for just a moment, a break from the bleakness of the day.
Across from the high school in Eagle Butte stood a small tree covered with yellow ribbons. It is tradition in that community for family members of men and women called to service to place a ribbon on the tree. When the soldier returns home, the ribbon is taken down. It’s a simple but powerful moment of homecoming in a place with a long and deep tradition of service in the military."
Get the Story:
Terry Wooster: So long as there is war, we will mourn
(The Mitchell Daily Republic 11/11)
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