9th Annual Gathering of America Indian Veterans

By Charles Spillar

Proud Veteran saluting the American flag. Photo by Nicole Thurston, BAOM

On September 26 at the Tohono O’Odam’s Desert Diamond Casino the 9th annual gathering of Arizona’s American Indian veterans took place with the partnership of the Southern Arizona VA Health Care system. I was so impressed with this event I wanted to share it with everyone. If all of America had the respect for our Veterans as witnessed at this event we would not have near the problems we have today with Veteran’s suicides and homelessness. We would have compassion and support for the sacrifices these men and women have made to preserve our freedom.

A huge number of veterans and their families  and friends attended as well as an array of vendors with native art work and organizations dedicated to veterans health & welfare.

The organization and program scheduling of this event was exceptional. From the opening address and throughout the day guests were entertained by traditional native dancers, music, and a delicious meal for lunch. The health related vendors were available to answer questions from the veterans attending throughout the day’s event.

Hopi Dancers Photo by Nicole Thurston, BAOM
Basket Dancer Ceremony. Photo by Nicole Thurston, BAOM
Basket Dancer Ceremony. Photo by Nicole Thurston, BAOM
Photo by Nicole Thurston, BAOM

This year the gathering was expanded to include the White Mountain Apache Tribe, and the Lopez-Hernandez American Legion Post #95 in Solomon, AZ. Next year they will include the San Carlos Apache Tribe, and  are reaching out to the Quechan and Cocopah Tribes of Yuma.

Proud veterans and members of the Color Guard. Photos by Nicole Thurston, BAOM

In the afternoon I witnessed one of the most impressive displays of appreciation of veterans I have ever seen with a ceremony titled Honoring and Presentation of Coins. Literally, every veteran that attended this event got visual and verbal recognition for their service to our nation. If the rest of America would honor our veterans in this manner it would do a great deal to help heal them from the sacrifices so many had made for our freedom. I am still in awe after witnessing this love and compassion. I have never witnessed such respect for our veterans. America could learn a lot from our Native American’s tradition.

Veterans in line to receive their recognition during the Passing of Coins ceremony. Photo by Nicole Thurston
Group photo of all the veterans in attendance at the event. photo by Nicole Thurston, BAOM