A day to remember

Veterans recognized during ceremonies at Taos Pueblo, Taos Plaza

By Robert Nott
rnott@sfnewmexican.com
Posted 11/14/19

TAOS PUEBLO - Robert Tsoodle began to choke up as he looked at his father, Wendell.

Asked what Veterans Day meant to him, the younger Tsoodle could only gaze intently at the man who fought in Korea and came home to help raise him

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A day to remember

Veterans recognized during ceremonies at Taos Pueblo, Taos Plaza

Posted

TAOS PUEBLO - Robert Tsoodle began to choke up as he looked at his father, Wendell.

Asked what Veterans Day meant to him, the younger Tsoodle could only gaze intently at the man who fought in Korea and came home to help raise him.

"It's a day to be with my dad in uniform," said Robert, 58, himself a U.S. Army veteran who served from 1996-2006.

Both Tsoodles were clad in their sharp dress blues as they attended Taos Pueblo's Veterans Day celebration Monday (Nov. 11) - bonded by a uniform, a family, a nation and a culture.

Wendell Tsoodle said he did not come to be honored or recognized. Instead, he said he wanted to recognize fellow servicemen and servicewomen.

"I'm here to honor others, to lift them up, to encourage them," said the 86-year-old Korean War veteran. Noting the United States did not recognize Native Americans as citizens until the passage of 1924's Indian Citizenship Act, Tsoodle said, "Yet we fought, even before that act."

The sacrifices of the past and present were evident throughout wind-whipped Northern New Mexico, where communities celebrated Veterans Day with parades, heartfelt words and awards.

In Santa Fe, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and other dignitaries lauded the men and women who wore the uniform at a ceremony at the Bataan Memorial Building after a short parade of vets through downtown.

In Taos Pueblo, about 150 people attended a morning ceremony as Pueblo Gov. Richard Aspenwind recognized the local soldiers who fought for their land, culture and people as well as their country.

"To know what it is to have your life in danger - for this, Taos Pueblo salutes you," Aspenwind said.

The sacrifices of Native soldiers were a key theme throughout.

"It was our duty when called by our country," Korean War veteran Sonny Mirabal, who wore a camouflage jacket adorned with ribbons and medals, told the assembly. "I think we did a good job, for our people, for our pueblo, for our country."

Aspenwind and other pueblo officials led the attendees on a procession around the pueblo, singing and chanting in their native language while drumming. And when a bugler standing near the pueblo's memorial to its fallen warriors - including 10 soldiers who died during the 1942 Bataan Death March - sounded taps, many in the crowd wiped away tears.

The fact that November is also Native American Indian Heritage Month may have added extra significance to the event. Veteran Mary Tsoodle - Wendell's daughter and Robert's sister - took part in the color guard.

A U.S. Navy veteran, she said the procession allowed the pueblo's leaders to "set forth tradition, culture and military honor. We are honoring all our veterans, present, past and future."

According to the National Museum of the American Indian, 31,000 Native American and Alaskan Native men and women are on active duty today, while 140,000 living Native Americans are veterans.

Veterans Day, a federal holiday, is celebrated Nov. 11 because it was on the "11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" in 1918 that World War I came to its official end. Initially known as Armistice Day, the title was changed to Veterans Day in 1954 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Unlike Memorial Day, which celebrates those who died serving their country, Veterans Day honors all U.S. veterans.

Wendell Tsoodle, whose father was Kiowa and who joined the U.S. Army in 1952, serving more than 20 years, couldn't help but let the spirit of the day lead him to thoughts of his many relatives who have donned their country's military uniforms to serve in battle.

"It's kind of a tradition in our family," he said. "I'm proud of our people. We've come a long way. I consider myself a warrior - a warrior of just cause for my people."

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