Recently, ICTMN reported on the efforts of 77-year-old Bill Stam, Lakota, to create an all-Nations Native Veterans Memorial in his hometown of Jefferson, Oregon (For the full story, click here). ICTMN correspondent Vincent Schilling had reached out to the Mayor of Jefferson, Michael D. Myers, for a comment, and received something far more. Mayor Myers, who is also an active member of the Oregon Air National Guard, sent the following thoughtful response, which we felt should be shared in full. As we approach Veterans Day, November 11, the message, which emphasizes community, volunteerism, and respect and honor for veterans, is one we can all embrace.
I must apologize for not responding sooner, but I wanted to take a bit of time to reflect on your questions and try to fully answer them in a way that tells not only the story of Bill Stram but also the community of Jefferson.
Let me start by saying thank you so much for your interest in publicizing the latest and most impressive accomplishment of Bill Stram of Jefferson. Bill is a remarkable gentleman who has accomplished a great deal in his life and his latest effort tops them all. Bill is a retired U.S. Army veteran who served and continues to serve his country and his people with professionalism and honor. A Vietnam veteran who has given much to the community, his tribe and many other Native American tribes. He is also a talented craftsmen and well skilled in native herbs and medicines. His wife is also pretty amazing in her own right. You could do a story on them and their lives and it would be a good one.
I do not know Bill well, but what I do know is that he is a humble man who simply gives and gives. Quietly without fanfare, when he sees or hears of a need he does what he can to fill it.
With this prologue let me now address your questions;
What do you, as the Mayor, think of this project?
When I first heard of it I was amazed. To think someone would spend that much of their own personal monies to purchase a monument with the idea of honoring all Native American veterans is something most people would not do. Then again, Bill is not most people. As a current member of the Oregon Air National Guard with 27 years of service, I was humbled and deeply moved by Bill’s efforts. I was particularly touched by his desire to honor all Native American veterans. I understand that several tribes have monuments for their own Native American Nation, but Bill’s is for all of those who served.
Once completed the project may bring increased recognition of Jefferson (put it on the map, so to speak) and that is probably a good thing. However, it is secondary to the main consideration, which is honoring our Native American veterans.
What do you think about the support from the community?
The support has been great. Then again, this is Jefferson and when someone comes up with a good idea or something needs to get done and asks for help, the support comes. The bleachers at the high school stadium were condemned. A small group got together and took care of it. New park equipment came from a group of volunteers who raised over $15,000 (including over $1,000 in bottles and cans deposits) to get it done. There is a new fence around the park, again all done by volunteers. Don’t get me wrong what Bill has done and is doing is amazing and wonderful, but Jefferson is a volunteer city so in that sense I am not surprised. That’s what we do here, volunteer; for the schools, for the parks, for after school programs, for the library, for whatever is needed we volunteer. Jefferson is small community with a sizeable number of low to moderate income families. If we want something done that is good for the community we volunteer.
Why was the city council so gracious and supportive of Mr. Stam?
The council hears from a number of people who want something done or wants to do something. Sometimes it’s just an idea or in some cases it is thought out and well presented. Bill came prepared and equally important, Bill is well known and well respected. His presentation was thought out and his request was clearly stated and if we can get the support of the county and state very doable. In addition there are two other veterans on the council and it touched them as much as it touched me.
Of course like all requests that require the government to help, there is a process. In this case the roads where the signs would be posted are county and state roads and the city needs their approval to make it happen. Our city planner has begun the work to get the ok to get the signs up and I feel confident that it will all work out. You may want to check back in three or four months on the progress of getting the signs up (after all government is slow).
Thank you again for your questions and your interest in this amazingly wonderful, touching story.
Michael D. Myers
Mayor, City of Jefferson