Iron Shell member of Midwest Honor Flight

Eugene Iron Shell, Sr. is shown leading the flag retreat by Lakota veterans during the 2014 Rosebud Fair & Wacipi. Photo by Vi Waln

Rosebud, S.D. – Korean veteran Eugene Iron Shell, Sr. was part of the most recent Midwest Honor Flight, held to honor soldiers with complimentary travel to memorial sites.

Iron Shell, a 90-year-old descendant of Chief Iron Shell, was accompanied by his son, Eugene Iron Shell Jr. The weekend began with a banquet for all the veterans in the Sioux Falls Convention Center the evening before the Midwest Honor Flight. The group of 82 veterans were hosted for the trip by the Lyon County Riverboat Foundation Mission 7 to visit military memorials and monuments in Washington, D.C.

“He was one of the very few Native Americans to ever go on the Midwest Honor Flight,” said Iron Shell Jr. “Most Indian Country veterans do not know about this opportunity.”  The tour included World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Iwo Jima (Marine), Navy and Air Force Memorials.

Iron Shell witnessed the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery. He enjoyed visiting the Korean War Veterans Memorial. He remembered George, his oldest brother and WWII Veteran, while viewing the WWII Memorial. 

“The most memorable part of his journey was the homecoming, after we got back to Sioux Falls,” stated Iron Shell, Jr. “There were people at the airport to welcome them, and all of the families were waiting at the Sioux Falls Arena to say welcome home.” 

Sicangu elder Eugene Iron Shell, Sr. holds the proclamation issued by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. President Scott Herman declared September 19 as Eugene S Iron Shell Sr Day. Photo by Eugene Iron Shell, Jr.

A proclamation issued by Scott Herman, Rosebud Sioux Tribal President, declared September 19, 2021 as Eugene S Iron Shell Sr Day. It read in part: “Eugene Steven Iron Shell, Sr., age 92 years was born on August 6, 1929 to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Iron Shell, Sr. in Rosebud. He was one of 13 siblings and was baptized into the Catholic Church by Fr. Eugene Buechel, SJ. He went to school at St. Francis Mission From 1935-1947. When the 82nd Airborn Division recruiter came to St. Francis, he enlisted in the United States Army along with his brother James and also Doley White Eyes.”

Eugene’s first military assignment was as a parachute rigger in the 82nd Airborne Division. He was an outstanding solider and was quickly promoted to Corporal. In 1951 he was transferred to Company L, 3rd Battalion, 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team. He was a combat infantryman, participating in the battles along the 28th parallel at Kumwa Valley and the Chorwon Valley. He also participated in the breaking up the prisoner riots at Koje-do, Korea.

Eugene came home in August 1953. He then went back to the 82nd Airborne Division, this time to the 325th Airborne Infantry, where he was the guidon bearer for Company E. He was promoted to Staff Sergeant, he was subsequently assigned to the recruiting office of the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, NC. His final assignment was with Company I, 508th Airborne Regimental Combat Team in Fort Campbell, KY and Japan.

Eugene later earned a degree in counseling. He was a counselor at both the St. Francis Mission and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. He has been sober since June 13, 1975.

Eugene is a member of the Kit Fox Warrior Society, a position held by his great-grandfather Arnold Iron Shell. As a young man Eugene, met the late Bill Schweigman, a yuwipi man, and learned the traditional Lakota ceremonies. He sun danced at Crow Dog’s Paradise for 30 years.

Eugene has been a member of the Chauncey Eagle Horn-Phillip Iyotte American Legion Post 125 for 44 years. He served as a post commander and as Todd County Commander for 16 years. Since 1978, he has provided military funeral honors to thousands of veterans across the Rosebud Reservation. He still volunteers when needed for the firing squad at funerals.

Eugene has 3 adult children: James, Ronda and Eugene Jr. He has one living sister Theresa Iron Shell-Hiatt of Hastings, NE. He has many grandchildren and extended family members. He resides with family in Rosebud, SD.

Eugene Iron Shell, Sr., a Korean War Veteran, pauses for a photo at the Korean War Memorial in Washington DC. He holds a photo of himself as a young soldier. Photo by Eugene Iron Shell, Jr. 

Midwest Honor Flight is a non-profit, 100% volunteer organization in Northwest Iowa, South Dakota, and Southwest Minnesota dedicated to providing Veterans with respect, honor, and closure with an all-expense-paid trip to our nation’s capital. Interested veterans or their family members must apply to be considered for the Midwest Honor Flight and are placed on a waiting list.

“I was able to sign up one of our Vietnam Veterans for Midwest Honor Flight,” said Eugene Iron Shell, Jr. “I think all of the Veterans from WWII, Korea and Vietnam should have the opportunity to visit The Wall or the Korean Memorial or the WWII Memorial. I have applications if anyone is interested. It is a very simple process.”

Published by Vi Waln


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