Seven new flagpoles donated by the Blackfoot American Legion on November 11.
By ROSELYNN WAHTOMY
FORT HALL – A new flagpole dedication was on Saturday, November 11 at the Veteran’s Memorial Park on Highway 91.
The Blackfoot American Legion dedicated seven new flagpoles.
U.S. Marine veteran Richard Mendez opened the ceremony with a prayer for the veterans past, present and those to come, he also mentioned veteran families who had a hard time too. He was happy to see the new addition of flagpoles and said they need to make the place good for the veterans. After his prayer he smudged each of the flagpoles.
Mendez said the flags look good, but they represent a lot.
“Each one of our services, our different branches. A lot of our people have went out there and fought, some died, some came back just half of what they were when they left, lost limbs and stuff like that – we better remember them when we look at these flags,” said Mendez.
Speeches followed from local veterans and family members of veterans in attendance.
Fort Hall Business Council Chairman Nathan Small thanked Ruby Bernal for all the work and dedication she started for the park along with the committee people who helped start put things together. He expressed his gratefulness to the Blackfoot American Legion for their donation.
“I’m really glad we’re finally doing something out here for the veterans,” said Small.
Tribal elder Lionel Boyer, U.S. Air Force, said he remembered when the monument was first placed in the area and there were over 500 people in attendance. He said they still have to remember the individuals whose names are on the plaque and their families.
“This ground is a sacred ground,” he said. “This land that we are living on, the America’s is all sacred to the Indian people.”
Veteran's Memorial Park committee member Ruby Bernal.
Ruby Bernal spoke about her father’s name being on the plaque and how she listened to him talk about the war when he was in Italy and wounded his left leg.
“We always say remember your ancestors. We have to remember our veterans deep in our hearts because they protected us out there. We got to remember what they brought back with them and what they hid inside their heart and in their minds. They still suffer, they still suffer,” said Bernal.
She talked about being supportive as family members to veterans who struggle when they return. She said they need to pick them up and tell them they know they’re suffering deep inside and they will walk with them. She wanted people to go back home and hug their veterans.
Bernal also mentioned her son, Stephen LeClair–Bernal, U.S. Navy Corpsman, whose on active duty and talked about how she worries about him.
Steven Faulkner, U.S. Army, said he wasn’t there as a veteran, but was there to pay respects to his father, Stan Faulkner, U.S. Army, who served in World War II. He talked about how his father suffered with alcoholism when he came back and died in 1987. Faulkner served during the Vietnam era and said he was proud to know Vietnam veterans who were not treated well when they returned. He was proud to serve on the committee to get things going. He said every time he drives through the area with his grandkids they stop at the monument to pay respects to his father.
Vietnam veteran Ralph “Duff” Wolsey said Francis Edmo, U.S. Navy, was his great-great grandfather. He met him when he was still alive and he was a good to him. He said he, and his family, will do everything they can to make sure the veterans are honored all the time.
“These people have done well for all of us and now we can do well for them,” said Wolsey.
Some of the veterans and family in attendance at the event.
Vietnam veteran, Darrell Archuleta, U.S. Army, said he’s a member of the Fort Hall Veteran’s Association and they are currently trying to reorganize. They are an active group who serve the community during funerals and powwow grand entries. He said watch the Sho-Ban News for future meeting dates. He encouraged younger veterans to join the organization. He thanked all the veterans and their families for being in attendance.
Terrel Tovey, Bannock County Commissioner, is Commander of the Forward Support Company for the 321st Engineer Battalion. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He talked about the camaraderie amongst veterans and encouraged those that needed to talk could reach out to him, veteran families too.
David Archuleta, U.S. Navy veteran, said he was in attendance to honor the veterans of his family. He wanted the young people to understand they would one day have to be part of this. He talked about his experience during Vietnam.
“Native Indians, we have always gone to defend our country. This is our country. This is our homeland, that’s why we go. That’s why we do those things,” he said.
Archuleta talked about ways the committee was thinking of honoring veterans in the future, one idea was a wall and another was through sponsored bricks with names. His concern was young people disrespecting the area and wanted the community to teach the youth the area was sacred and to respect it.
Archuleta thanked Theron Tracy for his work putting the flagpoles up.
Charlene Wahtomy, daughter of World War II veteran Leon Wahtomy, reminisced about her father and the stories he told her growing up and when he came back from war. He was an Army photographer and her goal was to gather the pictures he had taken to share with the people.
The final speaker was Laurel “Chew” Fred, U.S. Marine veteran, who acknowledged all the veterans who fought for the country and thanked them for their sacrifice.