Rosebud, S.D. – US House Representative Dusty Johnson presented a Challenger Coin and lapel pin to several Vietnam veterans in a special ceremony held here last week.
The presentations to Vietnam and Vietnam veterans are a cooperative effort between the Department of Defense, Department of Veteran’s Affairs and the US House of Representatives. On behalf of the Congressional office, the veterans received a Challenge Coin, which depicts the seal of South Dakota on one side. The seal of the US House is on the other side of the coin.
The Vietnam era was “a dark time in our country’s history,” stated Congressman Johnson. “This is an opportunity for America to step up and try to right one of those wrongs.”
“Indian Country and the Lakota have always celebrated their warriors,” continued Johnson. “America, as a whole, has not done as good a job. Today, we will be shaking the hands of these Vietnam and Vietnam Era veterans, thanking them for service.”
A grateful nation thanks and honors you – is the message engraved on the back of the Challenger Coin. “That is the message we did not provide properly when people returned home from Vietnam,” Johnson said.
Other local veterans who were honored included Anthony Castaway (Army), Francis White Bird (Army), Fremont Fallis (Army), Charles Mancini (Air Force), Bill Menard (Army), Jim Herman (Marines), Orlando Morrison (Army) and OJ Semans (Navy). Others recognized were Vaugh Matt Gordon (Army), Melford Leighton (Army), George Leneaugh (Army). Robert Kelly served in the Marine Corp but was not able to attend. His metal was accepted by Jasmine Henry.
It is estimated that 42,000 Native Americans served in the military during the Vietnam era. According to the Vietnam Memorial, there were 248 American Indians/Alaska Natives killed during the Vietnam war.
The Sicangu Lakota Warriors served as the Color Guard for the honoring. Eyapaha was Pat Bad Hand, Sr. Bad Hand also sang the Lakota Flag Song, a Vietnam veteran song and an honor song. Staff members from Senator Thune and Senator Rounds office also attended the event. The RST Veteran’s office provided lunch to all who attended.
The lapel pins were presented to recognize, thank and honor local Lakota military veterans who served during the Vietnam War. Eligible veterans included living US veterans who served on active duty in the US Armed Forces at any time during the period of November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, regardless of location, are eligible to receive one lapel pin.
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