oglalalakotaveteransmonument
The Oglala Lakota Veterans Monument is located at the Piya Wiconi Administrative Headquarters on the Pine Ridge Reservation in Kyle, South Dakota. Photo: NESRI
Discovering what a putz I’ve been
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Native Sun News Today Columnist

On October 22, 2020, the “tribal” council here on the Pine Ridge Reservation enacted a week-long lock-down to address the rising COVID-19 cases. Travel was banned within the reservation boundaries.

Residents were required to stay at home. Food was delivered to 525 families in Oglala District. “Passes” were issued to essential workers to meet the logistical functions of the lock-down.

The lock-down began at 10:00 p. m. Friday (10-23). I had re-ordered my emergency oxygen from Northwest Respiratory Services earlier in the week, however, the weather prevented delivery. A half cylinder of oxygen was all I had left. A “winter storm advisory” was issued for the area on Saturday (10-24) and Pennington County called their snow plows in out of the storm.

I decided to hold onto that half cylinder in the event the electricity got knocked out. A large oxygen concentrator in my home is adequate but the tubing limits my movement to my bed, bathroom, refrigerator, kitchen sink and table. Without power, my oxygen level could drop to dangerous levels within a few minutes of activity, such as taking the trash out. This is what the oxygen cylinders are for.

Ivan F. Star Comes Out. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today

Anyway, I honestly did not expect anyone to help me with my situation. I was going to handle the situation alone. To ask for help with my dilemma is something I would not do. My perverse attitude resulted from a life-time of challenging and enervating experiences.

My schooling was fine except for the vindictive situation that was attached to it. My peers constantly ridiculed my Lakota language, my last name (Star Comes Out), and my culture. They even made fun of the fact that my family was poor. I dropped out of high school in 1965 as I was getting into more and more trouble.

I joined the military in 1967 with a plan. I would train for a “safe” job and acquire a General Educational Development (GED) certificate during my enlistment and go on to college with my earned educational benefits. Kaiserslautern, Germany was my first duty station and things started out as planned. Then my unit (3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment) was deployed stateside to Fort Lewis, Washington and the troops were sent to Vietnam.

About seven months later I arrived at Bien Hoa Air Force Base in South Vietnam (1968) for orientation before flying to the northernmost military tactical zone known as “I Corps” to serve with the 101st Airborne Division. The horror of war is indescribable.

My experience was mixed with racial bias and chesty paratroopers. I was a “leg” in one of the U. S. Army’s elite combat units. I learned quickly and did what I was supposed to do.

My homecoming (1969) was a soul-shattering experience as my group encountered some war protesters at the Seattle-Tacoma (Sea-Tac) International Airport. Their placards read “Get out of Vietnam” and “Baby killers.”

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Ivan F. Star Comes Out can be reached at P.O. Box 147, Oglala, South Dakota, 57764; via phone at 605-867-2448 or via email at mato_nasula2@outlook.com.

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today