Memorial Day is so much more than a long weekend on the last Monday in the month of May, and the unofficial kickoff of summer. A federal holiday, it is a day designated for remembering the men and women service members who have died while serving in the U.S. military.
In remembrance of this honorable day and these folk who made the ultimate sacrifice, ICTMN has put together a representation of those Native men and women who crossed over while serving their country. This Memorial Day we will think on all of those who gave so much defending these United States.
Lori Ann Piestewa, 23, Iraq
Army Specialist Lori Piestewa (Hopi) was the first American servicewoman killed in action in Operation Iraqi Freedom. She was also the first Hopi woman and the first Native American woman to die in combat in the service of the United States. Piestewa came from a long line of warriors: Her father served in Vietnam, her grandfather in World War II.
RELATED: Lori Ann Piestewa: Honorable Hero
Mitchell Red Cloud Jr., 26, Korean War
Red Cloud Jr. (Winnebago), a corporal in Company E 19th Infantry in Korea, in November 1950 was surprised by Chinese forces yet stayed in position and sounded the alarm. Severely wounded, he refused assistance and instead hunkered down to fight. He was fatally wounded.
His actions stopped forces from overrunning his company and allowed for evacuation of other wounded. He received a posthumous Medal of Honor in 1951. Camp Red Cloud in Uijeongbu, South Korea, is named after him, according to the U.S. Army website.
Ernest E. Evans, 36, World War II
Evans (Cherokee, Creek) was a Lieutenant Commander serving aboard the USS Johnston during the Battle off Samar on 25 October 1944. Under attack from superior Japanese forces comprised of battleships, heavy and light cruisers and destroyers, Evans gave orders to close the range and prepare for a torpedo attack, telling his crew that “survival cannot be expected.”
After a barrage of torpedoes, the USS Johnston was damaged to the point that Evans had to give the order to abandon ship. It is not known if Evans died of wounds onboard, or if he drowned after jumping into the water, but he was not among the crew members who were rescued. For his acts that aided in warding off the Japanese forces, Ernest E. Evans was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Charles George, 20, Korean War
Private First Class George (Cherokee) was killed in Korea on 30 November 1952, when during battle he threw himself upon a grenade and covered it with his own body. He sacrificed his own life but saved the lives of his comrades. For this, George was posthumously award the Medal of Honor in 1954.
The member of the Bird Clan showed “conspicuous gallantry and outstanding courage above and beyond the call of duty by giving his life to defend his nation, complete his mission, and save his friends,” the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs notes of the “quiet warrior from Birdtown.”
Marine Cpl. Brett L. Lundstrom, 22, Iraq
On Jan 7, 2006, Marine Corporal Brett L. Lundstrom (Oglala Sioux) was killed by small arms fire during a battle near Fallujah during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lundstrom was born in Vermillion, South Dakota, on June 12, 1983 to Ed and Doyla Lundstrom.
“He always said he was going to be a Marine since he was little,” his mother, Doyla Lundstrom, told the Rapid City Journal.
He enlisted in the Marines in January 2003 and was sent to Iraq in September of that year, the Military Times reported. He and his four fallen comrades were members of the North Carolina-based 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force and were on a combat mission when they made the ultimate sacrifice, according to the Military Times.
CPL Tanner J. O’Leary, 23, Afghanistan
The Cheyenne River paratrooper from South Dakota was killed by an improvised explosive device on December 9, 2007. He was a combat infantryman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C., according to the Associated Press.
The young man was given a hero’s sendoff, with a funeral and memorial that combined his Cheyenne and non-Native heritages in “seamless unity in the ceremony, moving in unison as they showed love and respect for O’Leary,” reported the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs.
Army Staff Sgt. Jordan Logan Bear, 25
Assigned to the 2ndBattalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Jordan Logan Bear was killed on base in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan by an Afghan soldier firing from a tower. The shooting was part of an attack by several Afghanis, one of them a civilian teacher.
Hailed as a soldier who set the bar for all the squad leaders in his platoon, Bear died mere hours after President Barack Obama presided over a state dinner honoring those who had given their lives in the Iraq war.
The 226 Native American Soldiers listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.; Vietnam War
During the Vietnam War, close to 90 percent of the 86,000 Indians who enlisted volunteered, giving Native Americans the highest record of service per capita of any ethnic group. For all the Native soldiers killed in action who are listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, there are an untold number who were not listed as American Indian, in this and other wars. The names of the 226 American Indian soldiers immortalized on the wall can be seen at the website War Stories, and more information about the wall is at the National Parks Service.
Approximately 70 American Indians and Alaska Natives who have died fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq
As of October 2012, an estimated 70 American Indians and Alaska Native had been killed in action, according to the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)—43 in Operation Iraqi Freedom and 27 in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
On this Memorial Day weekend, hopes, prayers and strength go out to all soldiers, families and friends affected by the loss of those who gave their lives.