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Schatz bill would recognize Native American vets

By Susan Montoya Bryan

Associated Press

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. >> The Navajo Code Talkers are legendary. Then there was Cpl. Ira Hamilton Hayes, the Pima Indian who became a symbol of courage and patriotism when he and his fellow Marines raised the flag over Iwo Jima in 1945.

Before World War II and in the decades since, tens of thousands of American Indians have enlisted in the Armed Forces to serve their country at a rate much greater than any other ethnicity.

Yet, among all the monuments and statutes along the National Mall in Washington, D.C., not one stands in recognition.

A grassroots effort is brewing among tribes across the country to change that, while Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii has introduced legislation that would clear the way for the National Museum of the American Indian to begin raising private funds for a memorial.

"This is not a political gamble for anyone, and it's not politically threatening for anyone," said Jefferson Keel, a retired Army officer and president of the National Congress of American Indians. "This is something that both sides of the aisle can get behind and support, because it's not going to cost a lot of money for the country. It's just something that needs to be done."

The push for a memorial can be traced back to the 1980s when the well-known Three Soldiers sculpture was unveiled near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Depicted are three American soldiers: one white, one black and a Hispanic.

During the Vietnam era, the federal government says more than 42,000 Native Americans served in the military and 90 percent of those service members were volunteers.

"I've come across veterans from throughout the whole country, from the East Coast all the way to California, and a lot of Indian who people believe that there should be something on the National Mall. We're not there, we haven't been recognized," said Steven Bowers, a Vietnam veteran and member of the Seminole tribe in Florida.

Bowers is spearheading an effort to gain support from the nation's tribes to erect a soldier statue on the National Mall in recognition of American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians who have served over the years.

His proposal calls for placing it prominently at the entrance of a planned education center at the Vietnam memorial — where millions of people visit each year — rather than at the Museum of the American Indian.

Numerous tribal organizations, including the National Congress of American Indians, have signed on in support of the grassroots effort, and Bowers is hopeful the legislation introduced this week by Schatz doesn't complicate matters.

Jeff Begay, a Navajo and Vietnam veteran whose grandfather also served as a scout for the U.S. Army, said he prefers a memorial close to the heart of the National Mall.

"We feel that we don't want to be represented on the museum property because we're not relics anymore," he said. "We're not artifacts to be observed. We are real soldiers, we contributed to defense of this country, and we need to be honored in the Mall area."

John Garcia, deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, said he's been meeting with Native American leaders and believes that a memorial "is a real possibility" if land is located and private funds are raised.

Garcia estimated there are about 200,000 Native American veterans, and a memorial dedicated to them would be appropriate since they have been involved in every American war from the American Revolution to recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Supporters of the two efforts agree that a memorial in the capital city would help to raise awareness of the role Native veterans have played in the country's history.

"We're trying to instill pride in our heritage as original inhabitants of this land," Begay said. "We don't want our children to grow up with that concept that we're insignificant. We want to instill in them that they're important members of the American community, and they should be proud of that."

___

Associated Press writer Russell Contreras contributed to this report.






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Grimbold wrote:
Good idea. We also Need Memorials for the Philipinos, Mexicans, Chinese, Hawaiians, French, Africans and others.
on May 26,2013 | 06:50AM
serious wrote:
I understand your thought, I am surprised that HE hasn't gotten a monument for the Afro Americans veterans. And gay basketball players. I see a white soccer player has announced his gayship--when ail THE CALL come?
on May 26,2013 | 07:00AM
what wrote:
Schatz and the supporters of this bill are racist for thinking that all the current WW2 Memorials don't already HONOR native Americans.
on May 26,2013 | 01:05PM
2_centz wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on May 26,2013 | 07:11AM
what wrote:
Schatz and Abercrombies should give out "EVERYBODY'S SPECIAL" awards to everyone dead and alive, and get it over with. Then maybe these guys can move on to real substantive lawmaking that will truly improve our country.
on May 26,2013 | 12:57PM
allie wrote:
Sorry Schatz but this kind of pandering is unacceptable. Honor all vets not for their ethnicity but fore their service to our country. Stop the lame-brain racial identity politics.
on May 26,2013 | 07:45AM
what wrote:
Exactly. WW2 Memorials honor all those who served, regardless of race or ethnicity. Only a racist would think that WW2 Memorials exclude Native Americans, or that they only honor white people.
on May 26,2013 | 01:09PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
I wish Schatz would focus on more important issues. He panders to every special interest. Not to say the cause is not worthwhile but in terms of priorities he does not have his head calibrated properly.
on May 26,2013 | 07:53AM
serious wrote:
I agree with you. He is for the Jones Act which gives us the highest cost of living in the USA. But to be for the Act got Uncle Dan elected from the special interests and that's all that counts folks--the heck with the middle class.
on May 26,2013 | 08:31AM
allie wrote:
yup..but hanabutah is worse
on May 26,2013 | 08:33AM
DAGR81 wrote:
Too low...show some dignity
on May 27,2013 | 08:21AM
Bdpapa wrote:
This is not needed. Any American soldier is the same. Honor them all.
on May 26,2013 | 08:03AM
allie wrote:
yup
on May 26,2013 | 08:34AM
Uncleart66 wrote:
Nothing better to do....
on May 26,2013 | 08:03AM
Mythman wrote:
The Seminole should know by now as the native Hawaiian knows by experience, any good idea that a native puts out there can and will be stolen by a pol or a poverty hustler when it can inure to their own political benefit first and foremost - this is a meaning of the saying no good deed goes unpunished.
on May 26,2013 | 08:07AM
livinginhawaii wrote:
Singling out race is absolutely unacceptable. Brian is once again clueless - there were other races assisting in the code talker effort who were just as heroic and also at risk.
on May 26,2013 | 11:05AM
SteveToo wrote:
They are AMERICANS, and don't need a memorial just for them.
on May 26,2013 | 12:58PM
allie wrote:
agree
on May 26,2013 | 04:14PM
pcman wrote:
If Schatz needs something to do, he should get Hawaii an equitable refund for the moneys Hawaii spends to educate children of Federal government employees, military personnel and other Federal personnel who are stationed in Hawaii. Over 10,000 suck children are educated by the state. It costs over $13,000 per student. The Feds reimburses the state about $3,000 per student, so approximately $10,000 comes out of the state, or a total of $100Million a year. This would significantly improve public education in Hawaii.
on May 26,2013 | 01:39PM
false wrote:
Hey Schatz. Pandering again to get votes for your2014 election. It's so obvious. What next - cater to the (de)occupy bums? You were assigned as our "senior U.S.senator" to carry the mantle for Hawaii. What a great disappointment you've been, doing nothing but trying to coast till the election.
on May 26,2013 | 02:04PM
Dimbulb wrote:
This is yet another Bill to split Americans. The monuments in Washington and around the country were built to recognize all those that served. Mr Schatz is under the misguided idea that war monuments must have been set up by race. He needs to visit some of them to get an understanding. Every soldier, airman, sailor, marine, and coast guardsman that served and fought for this country is represented. Native Americans have served this country the same as everyone else and they have served it well. I haven't seen any monument, etc where it excluded Native Americans. Mr. Schatz is wrong headed to be attempting to divide our veterans by race.
on May 27,2013 | 03:29AM
bender wrote:
I don't think Schatz gets it. The memorials are to ALL Americans, regardless of their background. There is no need to create separate memorials for the various races of people that sent young men into the amred services.
on May 27,2013 | 05:36AM
Kalli wrote:
What a bunch of racists. We are all Americans. God Bless those that served regardless of their ancestry. All our blood is red but we are all Americans, let's just be proud of our service to our Country.
on May 27,2013 | 05:40AM
Ken_Conklin wrote:
I'm very happy to see that all the commenters have clearly seen the idiocy of what Schatz is doing. The statue of the three soldiers "left out" Native Americans. But it also left out Asian Americans. It also left out women. So why is Schatz worried only about Native Americans? The mistake was probably in having distinctively Caucasian, Black, and Hispanic faces in the three soldiers in the statue, which itself was a way of pandering to those three ethnicities. Maybe they should have had only one soldier, with a blurry face and clothing so bulky it conceals the gender. In fact, maybe the whole statue thing is unnecessary.
on May 27,2013 | 07:09AM
DAGR81 wrote:
Political campaign release gone wrong
on May 27,2013 | 08:32AM
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