Salt River Council member and veteran Ricardo Leonard emcees the Community Veterans Day event held at the Lehi Community building.

Vietnam Vets Honored at Community Veterans Day Celebration

By Richie Corrales
Au-Authm Action News

Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members and veterans came together at the Lehi Community Building to recognize Veterans Day on November 12. This year much of the program focused on the Vietnam War, as 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the United States’ entry into that war.

The Community’s Young Marines posted the colors, and then members of the Community royalty sang the national anthem. The emcee was SRPMIC Tribal Council Member and veteran Ricardo Leonard.

The building was packed, with many folks dressed in red, white and blue as they enjoyed a continental breakfast. SRPMIC President Diane Enos welcomed all the veterans and families. The Armed Services Medley was played in tribute to the Vietnam veterans from the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines and U.S. Air Force each order the veterans were in stood.

The guest speaker for the day was Capt. Robert Chiago, USMC. Chiago talked about his childhood and his experiences in the Vietnam war. He explained what his duties were and talked about how his platoon was frequently targeted by the enemy. Ironically, one date when they were attacked was September 11, in 1967.
When Chiago returned to the United States, he came back with a lot of issues, just like nearly every other soldier who served in Vietnam. He was evaluated at the Veterans Administration hospital in downtown Phoenix, where he received a lot of help. Chiago also decided to further his education, and over the years he worked to earn a master’s degree in psychology.

SRPMIC Veterans Representative Pacer Reina asked all Vietnam veterans and their families to stand and be recognized. Members of the royalty then handed out certificates signed by President Barack Obama proclaiming the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the war.

To honor the veterans, Community senior Merna Lewis sang “God Bless America,” with the help of everyone in the audience.

Community senior Burleigh Saunders, a sergeant in the U.S. Army and a Vietnam veteran, also shared his story. He said other veterans should always be recognized for their efforts in keeping the United States a free country. Veteran Edwin “Bully” Wood spoke briefly about Veterans Day and was also one of the gourd singers as the group Bird Singing and Dancing by the River performed a few songs.

Community veterans Reina and Leonard conducted a roll call of the SRPMIC members who served in the military.

When the program ended, everyone received a T-shirt in commemoration of this year’s Veterans Day program. Lunch was provided by Ernie’s Catering.

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