The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community hosted the fifth Annual Veterans Pow-wow on March 12 and 13 at Salt River Community Building. The annual event honors the Community’s veterans and their service to the country. The honorees this year were Cameron Grey, Sr., Franklin Kauakahi, Gregory L. Vincent, Joseph James, Charles Donahue, Edward “Pacer” Reina, III and Bob Aguilar.
The Veterans Powwow is spearheaded by Tribal Council Member Ricardo “Brusha” Leonard.
“A lot of the Community veterans don’t get the recognition they deserve” until they have passed away, said Leonard. “I wish more people would come out and honor these veterans. Many people in our Community have served their country and it goes unnoticed.” A veteran himself, Leonard said it’s not about being perceived as a hero, but about simply being honored for the sacrifice and for serving the country.
Raising the Flags
The two-day event included a “breathing ceremony”; Leonard explained that the ceremony is to air out the flags that were presented to the families of deceased veterans. The flags of the late Jerry Evanston, Sr. and the late Herman “Bull” Grey were raised high at the powwow.
These veterans all have interesting stories to tell. Herman Grey enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps after his older brother Ray went missing in action overseas.
Herman wanted to search for his brother, hoping that one day they would be reunited. They never were. Grey returned home in 1964 and came to the realization he would never find his brother. He kept a journal during his time in the service, and at the powwow his family shared this passage:
“We moved on till we had a good beachhead, machine gun fire racked our area and mortars exploded behind us. We were to be put on temporary reserve as we had been hit pretty badly. The first battalion was to take our place in line. But it didn’t happen. Our lines soon became wider and longer, and all three of the battalions were needed on the line, so we stayed. Sometime during the attack, a gap in the line developed between our regiment and the 8th regiment. Our line was stretched thin, almost five yards between every man. We didn’t have enough men to fill in the gaps, but we knew we could handle whatever came our way. We continued to move faster, we still couldn’t stop the machine gun fire to the front, it kept getting worse. Our riflemen started moving up in rushes, that’s when we lost another of our old ‘China Marines,’ it was Cpl. Smokey Clements. He was leading his men in a rush, and as he turned around to encourage his men a bullet got him through his mouth, he died instantly. We were right behind his squad. I saw him fall, I came up to him and checked him over. He looked peaceful and he had ‘Marine Corps’ written all over him. I wondered now if he knew he was going to get killed, or if this was going to be his last battle. I guess we’ll never know, but I do know that when he got there and reported to our Father in Heaven, he said, ‘One More Marine Reporting Sir, I’ve done my time in hell.’”
On July 13, 2007, Herman “Bull” Grey reported to duty in heaven the same way.
To Remember and Understand
Leonard said that many times men and women come back from being in the military and people seem to forget what they went through during their time serving America. “People may judge them for their actions [during their military service] or their actions when they are back on American soil living as an average American,” he said.
The Vietnam War was a heavily protested war in the United States. When Vietnam veterans returned, there were very few people at airports with “welcome home” signs; in fact, more often they were the target of derogatory comments. It was as if they had done something wrong by serving their country. Leonard said that this could be a reason why some veterans turned to alcohol. He told the story of one man who was an alcoholic, and then at his funeral people realized what an honorable man he had been, as he earned many awards in the service.
“Here, they just knew him as a drunk,” Leonard said.
“A lot of the people who do not serve in the military may not recognize what the veterans are going through, such as post-traumatic stress,” said Leonard. “This powwow is about honoring the men and women who serve our country and make it possible for us to live the lives we do.”
American Legion Post 114 “Bushmasters”
George W. Robinson, Veteran’s Affairs Representative
10005 E. Osborn Road, Bldg. 26 (across from Behavioral Health and next to Youth Services)
Scottsdale, AZ 85256
Robert Aguilar enlisted in the Navy right after high school in 1958. The 19-year-old attended boot camp at the U.S. Naval Training Center in San Diego, California, where he played for the Naval Training Center Bluejackets for a year. After training, Aguilar went to Hawaii and traveled to other places around the world. He was stationed for two years aboard the U.S.S. Hanson, DD-832, a Navy destroyer.
Jerry Patrick Evanston, Sr.
During World War II, Jerry Patrick Evanston, Sr. enlisted and became a private in the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division. Evanston, a full-blood Mojave from Parker, Arizona, was only 17 years old at the time. During his time of service he fought in Germany and Korea. When he returned from serving in the Army, he worked for the Santa Fe Railway and coached men’s basketball. Later in his life he began to sing traditional bird songs more often, and he was asked to sing at many different occasions. He passed away in 1983.
Cameron Grey, Sr.
Cameron Grey, Sr. joined the service in May 1967. He attended the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego for six weeks. After graduating, Grey went to the Marines base at Camp Pendleton, California. After his training there, he was shipped out to Okinawa, Japan and to Vietnam, where he was involved in numerous major operations such as the Tet Offensive, a military campaign during the Vietnam War.
After a stay in Sydney, Australia for some rest and recuperation, he was sent back to Vietnam, where he was wounded and flown out to the Army hospital in Japan. He stayed in the Marines, retiring in 1970 after serving 3 years.
Franklin Kauakahi enlisted in the U.S. Navy right after high school because he respected his uncle Larry Rhoades), who also served in the military and talked very highly of his experience. Kauakahi was stationed in Coronado Island, California and then Meridian, Mississippi, attached to the Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Department. For two years, he played in the traveling football squad for the Navy. He was honorably discharged in 1981.
Edward “Pacer” Reina, III
Edward Pacer Reina III, enlisted in the Army in May 1988 and was sworn in on August 9, 1988, reporting for basic training in Atlanta, Georgia. He went through the difficult Airborne School to become a paratrooper. Reina served with Charlie Company, Second Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Third Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. In 1989 -90 his unit was sent to the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt with the Multinational Forces and Observers peacekeeping mission to monitor the Israeli-Egyptian border. After Egypt, Reina was sent to serve in Iraq and help liberate Kuwait, which Iraq had invaded in 1990. In February 1992 Reina was honorably discharged, devoting four years of his life to the U.S. Army.
(From an article by Tasha Silverhorn in the November 4, 2010 issue of Au-Authm Action News.)
Gregory Vincent enlisted in the U.S. Army on June 20, 1973, and that August he was shipped out to Ft. Knox, Kentucky for basic training. Vincent served in the Army as an avionics aircraft technician and traveled to such countries as South Korea and Germany. It was his duty to service helicopters, jets and aircraft wings, lights and other electrical parts.
Vincent served his country for 20 years, eventually retiring on July 1, 1993.