Alex White Plume. Photo courtesy Keri Pickett / Pickett Pictures

Native Sun News Today: Military service inspires Lakota veteran to bring change

White Plume’s Military Service Inspires Him to Bring Change to Pine Ridge

By Jaclyn Lanae
Native Sun News Today Correspondent

PINE RIDGE - It was October 1973 when Alex White Plume’s cousin visited on a home-town recruiting tour with “little bitty Private wings” on his uniform, garnering oohs and ahhs from everyone in the room.

Envying the attention, White Plume was quick to take his cousin up on the offer to sign him and two months later a highly decorated Sargent showed up at his door to escort him to his induction in Sioux Falls. Three days later he passed the physical tests with flying colors and was transferred that very evening to Fort Leonard in Wood, Missouri, for 6 to 8 weeks of basic training.

“It was a blessing I left,” White Plume reflects now. “There was a war going on here, at Wounded Knee. It was just violent here.”

His success at Fort Leonard sent him to Fort Carson, Colorado where he undertook Advanced Individual Trainings in LRRPS; Long Range Recon Patrols - or Recondo as the recruits called it - among others, and became part of the mechanized infantry, driving APC’s, tanks, and trucks. After five months he received his orders; he would be stationed in Berlin, Germany and become part of the First Battalion Tent Infantry Berlin Brigade - the best of the best.

The transition was not easy on White Plume, and he vividly remembers landing in Berlin, shocked by the sight of machine-gun armed German soldiers in every corner of the airport. The Arms Race was in full swing, and recruits were given strict instructions not to talk to Russians, Germans, or Polish people - especially women - because they would be mining for American secrets.

“I was really in a state of shock,” White Plume recalls, confessing “I didn’t want to leave the barracks. There were 227 huge army tanks stationed around the Wall, facing out. And 600 tanks facing in.”

The culture shock, too, was initially a struggle for White Plume.

“It was nothing to walk down the street with 30 or 40 different nationalities. In America all I was used to was white people and white people,” he chuckles. Homesickness set in quickly and White Plume found himself drinking heavily and engaging in fights. “It was a way of releasing the loneliness. I felt the pain on my knuckles, or in a black eye…”

When he was alone he remembered home in minute detail; every bump in the road to his house, every broken fence post, every dead tree.

When his superiors urged him to quit fighting, he did, turning instead to advanced trainings to vent his loneliness. “I took every training I could,” he says. Including the French Commando training.

Of the 80 some men who took on the four week endeavor in the rugged French Alps, White Plume was among the 18 who completed it. So was Dave West, a new recruit and a friend from Eagle Butte.

“Now there were two of us who spoke Lakota,” White Plume exudes, “I was so happy.”


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White Plume’s military service inspires him to bring change to Pine Ridge

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