background image

Honoring Our Native Soldiers

Community veterans salute the flags after the national anthem was sung, before the SRPMIC Veterans Day Program on November 11.

On November 11, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community hosted the annual Veterans Day program at the Two Waters Building A parking lot.

Veterans and their supporters gathered on a nearly perfect Saturday morning to honor those who have served in the armed forces defending our homelands.

The program kicked off with a welcome address by Darrell Hills, commander of the Salt River American Legion Post 114. Hills provided a brief update on Post 114 and thanked all veterans in attendance for their service.

SRPMIC President Delbert W Ray, Sr. provided a ceremonial address in which he greeted all in attendance and thanked all veterans and their supporters. He shared a brief history of Veterans Day and the roles that our Community veterans have played in the military. He encouraged everyone to thank veterans, who continue to keep our country safe and protect our homelands.

“We are here to pay tribute to the men and women who have served in the U.S. military forces,” Ray said. “We come from ancestors who have a long history of military service, including providing protection to the settlers who came into this area. We are proud to say we have more than 450 veterans from our Community who have enlisted in all branches of military service. Thank you, veterans, for your service to our people and our Community.”

The guest speaker was Community veteran Burleigh Saunders, who served in the U.S. Army Special Forces during the Vietnam War. Saunders spoke about his military experiences, including traveling, going overseas and how he ended up in the Special Forces.

About his trip to Asia with the Army, he said, “We stopped everywhere—in Hawaii, in Guam—and we couldn’t go into Japan because of [a] typhoon,” Saunders recalled. “This Indian boy had never been out of the state of Arizona. I didn’t know what seasickness was. We traveled by boat for 30 days, and I was sick for about 28 of those days. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever been in. I thought the boat was going to go under water.”

Saunders also spoke of two rather unusual experiences: using C4 explosives powder to heat up food, and delivering a baby, who was eventually named after him. Saunders ended by thanking all of the veterans in attendance.

Veterans received a commemorative coin, a T-shirt and mug, and some received bags. The Salt River Tribal Council members personally thanked all veterans in attendance at the program.

Click here to view photo gallery.