Veterans journey near and far to represent Pokagon Band

A number of veterans attended the regional Emmy awards ceremony on December 2 in Chicago. They were there representing native veterans featured in The Untold Story, a documentary focusing on the first ever National Gathering of American Indian Veterans in 2015, which was nominated by the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for Outstanding Achievement for Documentary Programs – Cultural. Joe Palosek, a native veteran in Chicago, produced the documentary, which aired on PBS.

“Although we did not win, Joe did make sure that we got highlighted in interviews where I was able to mention our names,” said Roger Williams, pictured with the producer on the red carpet.

Then, 13 veterans flew to Hawaii on December 5 to participate in the 76th annual Pearl Harbor Day commemoration.

“We’ve been talking about this for years, but we just didn’t have the funds to do it in the past,” said Anthony Foerster, Pokagon veteran Eagle Staff carrier. “It was a pretty somber occasion. Some survivors come back each year, although their numbers are dwindling. There were many ceremonies, remembrances for ships and submarines. We developed a camaraderie with the native Hawaiians.

“We were the first native color guard to march in the Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade. We were very welcomed by the Hawaiians; we felt like rock stars. The crowd was really cheering for us.”

The group took a tour of Pearl Harbor, visiting the USS Arizona and USS Missouri. Pokagon Mike Wilson, a naval reservist, took part in a promotion ceremony aboard the USS Missouri in the exact same spot where Japan surrendered to the U.S. in WWII. Wilson earned the distinction of E6, a staff noncommissioned officer.

The group toured Honolulu and the island of Oahu, visiting many sites like Diamond Head, the Polynesian Cultural Center, Hanauma Bay, the Banzai Pipeline, and the Dole Plantation.

“I was personally given a special gift by the Creator and was allowed to connect with two Air Force buddies of mine that I have not seen in 60 years,” said Williams.

Finally, veterans Jerry Campbell and Anthony Foerster participated in a panel discussion regarding Native American veterans at the Ruthmere Museum “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” series December 17. It was an open panel discussion with topics ranging from what made them want to be in the military, how serving in the military is different for Native Americans, Native American history in the US Military, and their personal experiences.