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Veterans Honored at United Tribes
15 November 2013

BISMARCK (UTN) - United Tribes Veterans where honored for their service and sacrifice November 8 with a program, recognition ceremony and meal. Both student Veterans and staff Veterans were special guests at the college's cafeteria.

Janet Thomas

      "I looked at myself like an ambassador for Native People while in the military," said Janet Thomas (Standing Rock), who works in the college's development office.

      Thomas was guest speaker for the event.

      "I thought I'm probably the only Native person the people around me will ever meet. And whatever I do is a reflection on our people. So, I always tried my best to carry myself in a good way and with integrity."

      Thomas said she was proud of her 15 year military career in the U. S. Air Force.

      "I always knew I would go into the military," she said. "I knew it as a young girl."

Veterans honored

      Being a descendant of the leader Rain In The Face, military service was a tradition in her family. Her father, Basil Alkire, served in the Air Force. Her grandfather, Sam Crow Ghost, served in World War II.

      Thomas said she was stationed for one year in Missouri, followed by six years in Japan as a logistics coordinator with a tactical fighter wing. Later assigned to the Grand Forks AFB air-tanker refueling wing, she served in Desert Storm in the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Then came five years at the Pentagon in Washington, DC working for the Air Force Chief of Staff. She concluded her service in the air guard stationed in Iceland and Grand Forks.

      "It's an honor to know you served your country and your people," she said.

      Foremost among the things she learned was how to follow directions. She learned discipline – mainly self-discipline – and how to adjust to any situation.

      "We carry ourselves differently from everyone else because we've been through different things in the military."

      But, she observed, for Natives, the military can present the problem of divided loyalties.

      "I know what happened to our ancestors [at the hands of the military]," she said. "But we're proud to be Veterans and part of the warrior tradition."

      "We should always honor our ancestors and our relatives for what they went through. I honor all Veterans like my grandfather and dad. And I'm very proud to have served in the U.S. Armed Forces."


Christopher Hilfer

      Selected for a $250 United Tribes Freedom Defender Scholarship was Christopher Hilfer, an honor student in the United Tribes Criminal Justice program. He was selected based on an essay, presented at the event, answering the question: "How has the 'Warrior Ethos' influenced my civilian life outside of the military?" Hilfer, Mandan, ND, has seven years of military service and is currently in the North Dakota National Guard. He is on track to graduate from UTTC in May. Gene DeClay and Brett Smith received Honorable Mention for their essays.

Julie Cain with arrowhead

      The program concluded with a presentation symbolizing that Veterans stood at the "tip of the arrow" defending freedom. Representing the United Tribes Culture Committee, Julie Cain presented each Veteran with a hand-knapped arrow point made by a Veteran.

      "It makes us so proud that we as Indian People can honor our Veterans in this way," said Cain. "What better than a traditional way – these arrowheads symbolizing how they fought for us from the beginning of time."

      The event was sponsored by the United Tribes Veterans organization, Freedom Defenders, and coordinated by Mike Iken, United Tribes counselor and the group's coordinator. Honor songs were rendered by the Wise Spirit Singers; prayer by Russell Gillette.

      More info about Freedom Defenders: 701-255-3285 x 1277, miken@uttc.edu.



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Following the Warrior Ethos

By Christopher Hilfer, UTTC Criminal Justice Student

  I follow the warrior ethos in my civilian life. It has taught many valuable lessons that have helped me overcome many obstacles.

  I will always place the mission first. This is figuring out my priorities and at times having to rearrange them to help others if in need. For example, I stayed late after work to make sure the job got done even though I finished my first shift.

  I will never accept defeat. If something is ever challenging in life, I keep working at it until I get it under reasonable control. I have battled anxiety throughout my life, but using this ethos has kept me pushing for more help to control it and still be able to live my life to the fullest. Things can be very difficult at times, but there is always hope if you keep trying.

  I will never quit. I use this ethos everyday in my life. I always give everything one hundred percent and will never give up until the end. School is a good example of this. If a class is ever challenging, instead of dropping it, I seek more help and spend more time studying every night.

  I will never leave a fallen comrade. Years ago, a friend of mine was going through depression and battling suicidal thoughts. I made sure I called him every day to make sure he was ok and did everything possible to make sure he wouldn’t hurt himself. I encouraged him to seek help and that there are people out there who can help him. It was looking out for a friend I didn’t want to lose.