A group of veterans from the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin traveled to Washington this weekend to participate in the annual National Memorial Day Observance to honor America’s fallen military service members. They will be joined by the president of the National Congress of American Indians who will also take part in the commemoration.
Don Loudner, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Chief Warrant Officer 4, U.S. Army (Retired), and National Commander of National American Indian Veterans, asked the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin to conduct the Color Guard ceremony this year during the commemoration at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The National American Indian Veterans (NAIV) is a nonprofit organization that represents and advocates for the improvement in the quality of life of American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and American Samoan veterans and their families.
Loudner turned to his friend and colleague NAIV’s National Marketing Director James King Overman, Major U.S. Air Force (Retired) and a citizen of the Oneida Tribe to organize the Color Guard event. Overman is the highest decorated American Indian Air Force fighter pilot in the U.S., awarded three Distinguished Flying Crosses, 18 Air Medals and a Combat Medal. Overman in turn worked with NAIV Oneida Chapter Commander Clifford Doxtator, Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, on the task.
For the first time, two of the four flag bearers in the Color Guard will be women veterans. John Breninger, Colonel, USAF (Retired), will carry the American flag; James L. Buckley, Lt. Colonel, U.S. Air Force (Retired), will carry the Oneida Tribe’s Eagle Staff; Liz Somers, Commander, U.S. Navy (Retired), will carry the Oneida Tribe’s flag; and Chris J. Cornelius, Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, will carry the NAIV flag.
“Because Don is recognized by the US Congress as a National Commander for a National American Indian Veterans group, he was asked by Arlington National Cemetery to conduct the Color Guard at this grand event,” Cornelius said. “This is the third year NAIV has provided a Color Guard for the Memorial Day Observance. The Oneida of Wisconsin NAIV Chapter is responsible this year for representing all the American Indian Veterans at the laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.”
Overman, Oneida Tribe’s NAIV Commander Clifford Doxtator, Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, and Raymond R. Johnson, Sergeant U.S. Marine Corps, will accompany the four flag bearers to Washington and will attend the ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in a special VIP area with President Barack Obama.
“We would like to recognize the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin for providing the financial funding for the complete trip of sending their veterans to this honored special event that will be attended by President Obama,” Cornelius said.
Loudner has asked Jefferson Keel, Major, U.S. Army (Retired), Lieutenant Governor of the Chickasaw Nations, and president of the National Congress of American Indians to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The U.S. Army Military District of Washington will conduct an Armed Forces Full Honor Wreath-Laying Ceremony at 11 a.m. on May 30 at the Tomb of the Unknown, to be followed by an observance program hosted by the Department of Defense in Arlington’s Memorial Amphitheater, according to the Department of Defense website.
A prelude by the U.S. Marine Band will begin in the amphitheater at 10:30 a.m. Both the wreath-laying ceremony and the observance program are free and open to the general public. Space is limited to standing room only for the wreath-laying ceremony and seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis in the amphitheater.