The Red Mountain Riders motorcycle club from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community began the first day of spring escorting several honored Community veterans from the Hoo-hoogam Ki Museum to the grounds of the fourth annual Veterans Recognition Pow Wow on March 20.
A line of bikes cruised down Longmore Road to the Salt River Ball Field, with veterans driving behind them: Gary Moreno, U.S. Marine Corps; Lauretta Johnson, U.S. Army; Merlin Schurz, U.S. Navy; Burleigh Saunders, U.S. Army; and Melvin Thomas, U.S. Marine Corps.
This is the fourth year that the Community and Casino Arizona have hosted the pow wow. Host drum was the Yellowhammer Singers of White Eagle, Oklahoma, and the emcee was Dennis Bowen from the Navajo Nation.
The American Legion Bushmasters Post 114 color guard posted the colors along with students from Salt River High School JROTC, marching to the center of the grounds. Community veterans Moreno, Johnson, Schurz, Saunders and Thomas were honored during the Saturday pow wow grand entry. Honorees were invited to sit up front while pow wow dancers and other participants acknowledged and greeted them.
The veterans were honored for their service with Pendleton blankets and T-shirts that read “2010 fourth Annual Veterans Pow Wow.”
“This is a great honor to me. I have never been honored like this or felt like this ever before,” said Moreno.
“It was just a grateful feeling. This is the first time I have ever been honored at a pow wow,” said Johnson. “I was very glad they asked us to take part in it. I always feel proud, and that day it felt good to be outside.”
Johnson said she always enjoys meeting other people and sharing with other soldiers what they went through. “We have good and bad memories and it is always good to share with a person who really understands.”
Saunders attended both days and was very pleased with the Yellowhammer Singers and the giveaways they had throughout the pow wow. “First of all it was great and very organized,” said Saunders. “This was a very good pow wow, from the entertainment to the different booths that were set up. The event was very well covered with police and ambulances too, and I appreciated that.
“All in all it was great to be honored along with other veterans. We were fortunate to sit up front, even though some of us don’t like to be singled out because we’d rather sit with everyone else,” he said, laughing.
Riding for Veterans
Here, some of the members of the Red Mountain Riders who participated in the motorcycle escort share their thoughts on accompanying the veterans to the pow wow.
“It was a great honor for me and my son to be part of this event,” said Red Mountain Rider Carl Young, “because I wanted to honor those who sacrificed for my freedom.” Young said he wanted to set an example for his son to honor those who deserve to be honored, and to set an example of service within his community.
“I would like to say that it is a great honor to be a part of the pow wow and honor all the vets,” said Red Mountain Rider George Lerma, “and to just get out in the Community and show my support. I wish as a tribe and community we could do more for the vets—maybe work together on a parade. We owe a great deal more to them, as they have put their lives on the line so we can do the things we do and be the people we are now. I look forward to doing more and more with them.”
“It was rewarding to take part in the Salt River Veterans Recognition Pow Wow and to be part of the motorcycle escort for the honored veterans,” said James Osife. “I was glad to see family and friends parked alongside Longmore Road waiting for the veterans to roll by with a police escort and our motorcycles trailing behind. It was similar to watching the president of the United States’ motorcade on TV.”
Osife had the chance to talk to a few veterans at the pow wow. “They were very appreciative as they explained to me in their own words how they felt when they heard the roar of the motorcycles coming down the road and rolling into the pow wow grounds,” he said. “I told them that I was more than happy to support them, and then I thanked them for their service and all they have done. I plan to be part of this pow wow every year, and I am thankful for all the veterans and for all they have done for this country.”