By Alfred Walking BullThe Sicangu Eyapaha
While most Americans may consider Memorial Day weekend a time to relax and kick off summer, it holds a more meaningful significance for those in the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. For RST Information Technology Director and veteran, Dion Reynolds, the day is a reminder of the service of Native Americans in the armed forces.
According the US Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 111,000 Native Americans have served in the armed forces since World War I, when numbers started being kept. Reynolds joined as a member of Chauncey Eagle Horn Legion Post 125 in Rosebud last year during Memorial Day. The post was started in 1919 and named after the first Lakota soldier killed in action in that war.
Since then, military service has been a significant part of Native American culture. Despite the troubled historical relationship between Lakota people and the United States, historians of the Battle of the Little Bighorn cite oral history of the battle; wherein the American flag fell and was picked up by Lakota warriors in June of 1876. Their descendants continue to claim stewardship of the flag and the country it represents.
Reynolds, who is an 18 year veteran of the Marine Corps, will join his legion post on Monday, May 27 on a day-long tour of cemeteries and gravesites around the reservation to render honors for veterans. Although its roots are in the commemoration of the Civil War dead, Memorial Day has come to encompass traditional Lakota values of honoring familial relationship with departed veterans. Reynolds said that is what strikes him about his role on that day, “many families are out there paying homage to the veterans. It’s good to see them get out there. There’s a lot of pride in their service.”
His reasons for joining the Marines are also guided by his family. “I joined because of family history of service. I have uncles who were in the Navy, Marines and Army. It’s a family tradition.” What kept him in the Marines was more intrinsic. “Once I joined, I was engaged in the physical fitness and the camaraderie.” In addition, he said that Native Americans in the service represent more than individual interests. “Once you get there, you see a sense of pride. They carry their family ties with them, making them proud back here.”
When it comes to Native veterans on the reservation, the former gunnery sergeant hopes to see an increased sense of ownership in legion posts, not just his, but posts around Indian Country. “When you’re in the service, you get ‘volun-told’,” he said, “but here, they need someone to step up.” Chauncey Eagle Horn Post 125 is currently commanded by Eugene Iron Shell, Sr., a tribal elder and Army combat veteran of the Korean War.
While the post will render honors when called upon and Reynolds sees a greater need for community investment of members and resources for the post – as well as other tribal veterans’ organizations – to continue on part of its mission to recognize the sacrifice of their comrades. “We need more vets to rebuild the post. I’d like to see membership grow, outreach and build camaraderie.”
Any veteran interested in joining Chauncey Eagle Horn Post 125 can contact Chris Bordeaux at 605-828-3720.
Chauncey Eagle Horn Post 125 Memorial Day 2013 Schedule: 8:00 a.m.: Meet at Ampride in Mission. 8:45: St. Peter’s Catholic Cemetery, Okreek. 9:00: Calvary Episcopal. 9:15: Chauncey Eagle Horn Memorial. 10:00: St. Thomas Catholic Cemetery, Mission. 10:15: Trinity Episcopal Cemetery. 10:30: Mission Lutheran. 11:00: Holy Family Cemetery, Mellette County Line. Noon: Grace Episcopal Cemetery, Soldier Creek. 12:30 p.m.: Spotted Tail Cemetery, Rosebud. 1:00: Ironwood Cemetery, between Rosebud and Parmelee. 1:30: Holy Innocents Cemetery, Parmelee. 2:00: Joe Waln Gravesite, He Dog. 2:30: Sylvan Spotted Tail Gravesite. 3:15: Iron Shell Cemetery, Two Strike. 3:45: Crow Eagle Cemetery, Two Strike. 4:15: St. Patrick’s Catholic Cemetery, Spring Creek. 5:00: St. Charles Catholic Cemetery, St. Francis.