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Area vets honor fallen comrades

Steve Ranson
sranson@lahontanvalleynews.com
Steve Ranson / LVN photo

On a cool, overcast Memorial Day, veterans conducted three ceremonies to honor local servicemen and women who either died during war or in peacetime.

In an unique time-honored tradition in the Lahontan Valley, members from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1002 and its Ladies Auxiliary, American Legion Post 16 and Ladies Auxiliary, Fleet Reserve Association 192 and the High Desert League Detachment of the U.S. Marine Corps placed flowers or wreaths in front of monuments dedicated to more than several thousand veterans interred at three cemeteries — Fallon Cemetery, the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Cemetery and The Gardens.

Cristoph Harper of the VFW welcomed visitors to each cemetery’s solemn ceremony to commemorate the men and women who served in all wars.

As the military service organizations traveled from one cemetery to another to pay their respects, Native Americans were pleased to hear of a movement in Washington, D.C., to construct a monument honoring the hundreds of thousands of American Indians who served in the military during all wars dating back to the fight for independence from England in the 1770s. Legislation has been presented in the U.S. Senate for the National Museum of the American Indian to use private funding for a memorial to be located on the National Mall. Supporters said the memorial would help raise awareness of the role the American Indian played in the nation’s history and especially during wartime.

Standing quietly by his brother’s grave, Merlin Dixon said the memorial would honor all Native Americans who served in defense of the United States.

“It’s long overdo,” he said. “It would be a honorable recognition for their duty and responsibility to serve in all the armed forces.”

His brother, Dorlan, enlisted in the U.S. Navy as an 18-year-old ready to see the world and learn a trade. His life was cut short on Oct. 27, 1963, when he was on leave from the USS Piedmont in a fatal automobile accident that also killed his cousin.

Linda Oxborrow, one of Dorlan’s two sisters, said the memorial in the nation’s capital would recognize those who rightfully deserved it.

“So many young Indian men and women have made a decision to be in the military,” Oxborrow explained. “Now, the next generation, many of them are in Junior ROTC.”

Oxborrow said people must remember their loved ones and friends who also gave their lives fighting for their country. Oxborrow said she has a grandson, Thomas Summerbell II, currently serving in the Wyoming National Guard. Eventually, he would like to follow in his great great-grandfather’s footsteps to become a doctor in Fallon.

Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribal Chairman Len George, who took office in late 2012, spent eight years on active duty in the U.S. Army.

“We honor our fellow vets who are now serving in the armed service and to the individuals who made the ultimate sacrifice,” he stressed.

George, who was an aviation operations specialist, said a monument erected to honor Native Americans who enlisted in the military would be important in honoring their achievements.

Likewise, another Army veteran, Jeanine Rambeau, also said the monument is overdo. Rambeau was in the Army from 1993-1997. During previous wars like Vietnam and Korea, Rambeau said the American Indian did not receive proper recognition.

“The Native Americans hadn’t really been recognized for the job they have done in the armed services,” she said.

Now, she said more American Indians have been accepted because of their involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jim Babb, commander of the Fallon American post, said it would be a honor for the American Indian to have a monument.

“The Native Americans want their own monument and that’s outstanding,” he said. “Every culture helped in one way or another.”

Pat LeClaire, president of the FRA, agreed.

“If they’re willing to build a monument to their fallen heroes,” said LeClaire, “then it should be done.”