This year's Hopi Veterans Day event organizers outdid themselves.
Never before had there been so many memorable activities on the Hopi reservation honoring and celebrating local veterans for their commitment to service, loyalty to the country's safety, deep abiding commitment to protection of their families and homelands and deep reverence for their freedom and way of life as Native veterans who sacrificed personally to serve their country.
Eugene "Geno" Talas, director of Hopi Veterans Services, organized local veterans services groups, including members of Hopi Post #80 Lori Piestewa under Commander Alfred Lomahquahu, for the event. Wives, girlfriends and family members helped cook, organize, decorate, collect raffle prizes, design event programs, man information booths and reception tables and then clean up.
More than 350 people attended the military banquet and Marine Corp's 237th birthday celebration held Nov. 8, eating a chicken dinner prepared by the Hopi High School National Honor Society.
The Tuba City High School ROTC members also traveled from Tuba City to post colors for the military meal and participated in the 237th birthday cake cutting ceremony honoring both the oldest and the youngest Marine at the event. The oldest was Sgt. Floyd Honwaima, U.S. Marine Corps, Cold War era, and the youngest was Corporal Mack Talashie, U.S. Marine Corps, Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Sgt. Major Johnson, U.S. Marine Corps and senior instructor for the Tuba City High School TCMJROTC program presented Honwaima and Talashie the first pieces of Marine birthday cake. Johnson cut the cake with a Marine sword. Family members, veteran guests from out of town and veteran administrators at the Hopi Veterans Memorial Center attended the event as well.
Hopi Post #80's Chaplain, Phillip Quochytewa, U.S. Marine Corp veteran, Vietnam era gave a special prayer.
Rod Sepulveda, who serves as a rural health coordinator with the Prescott VA Medical Center delivered a sveterans address to the capacity crowd. Sepulveda is working toward getting specialized and essential services for all military personnel out to the Hopi reservation, saving many veterans the time and expense of having to travel to metropolitan areas like Prescott or Phoenix for counseling, medical, emotional or benefit services.
Masters of Ceremonies Bruce Talawyma and Yvonne McCosar allowed time for an "open mike" session for veterans to share special personal memories of their time in military service and also recognized all Gold and Blue Star mothers during the day-long ceremony.
Hopi Tribal offices of the Hopi chairman and vice chairman issued good wishes and appreciation to the veterans at the event.
Numerous volunteers, headed up by Diane Lucero who runs the Kykotsmovi Elderly Center, served a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Lucero could be seen for three solid days wearing an apron tirelessly as her "badge of honor" to help coordinate the three major meals that were served during the week's events to all the veterans, their families, friends and supporters. Lucero was assisted by Hopi Cultural Center staffers, chefs, volunteer servers and wives of the veterans who were being honored.
Local Hopi country western bands, SunFire and Desert Country, provided musical entertainment to honor the veterans for their commitment to their country.
At the day's end, a huge line of Hopi and Navajo veterans lined up to receive "surplus" military items gathered by the Hotevilla Veterans Office. Counselor Clark Tenakhongva, spent two days last week with several local volunteers "bagging" all kinds of military items given to Hopi and Navajo veterans who could provide proof of military service.
Most of the items were brand new including zero weather sleeping bags, wool coats, brand new boots and personal items, military grade backpacks and sweatshirts and pants. Tenakhongva made it a point to sort all the items evenly, so that each veteran who was in the receiving line would receive something from the Washington D.C. surplus office.