by Marguerite Cleveland
Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon Sets the Standard
Veteran suicide continues to be an appalling statistic with an average of 20 veterans committing suicide each day. One thing that many veterans miss when they return home is that sense of comradery and brotherhood they experienced while serving in the military and especially if they saw combat. For the past 15 years, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon have hosted a “Celebration of Honor” at the tribal owned Chinook Winds Casino Resort in Lincoln City, Oregon. This 5-day celebration brings together veterans and active duty military service members together to honor their service. The tribe has a long history of its members serving in the Armed Forces and there are Veterans from eras dating back to a senior member of the tribe, World War II Veteran Ed Ben. The tribe also provides space for personnel from the VA and veterans support groups which can help Veterans find assistance for medical, mental health or financial problems they may be experiencing.
One of the highlights of the event is the Field of Honor which is a stunning display of 1000 full size flags set up on the casino grounds overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The Veterans of Oregon, a nonprofit group has a dedicated cadre of volunteers committed to ensuring that the service and sacrifices of every Veteran will never be forgotten. They set up the Field of Honor at events throughout the state of Oregon. The group also presents an Honorable Service Medal, made in America to those who have served honorably in the Armed Forces. The medal is for residents of all states but must be presented in Oregon. During the course of the 5-day event, volunteers reach out to the Veterans and encourage them to apply for the medal with a simple application verifying their service. On the last day of the Celebration of Honor a medal ceremony is held. The moving event presents veterans with this medal honoring their service and it is very emotional for many.
The Oregon Wall of Honor and other military displays were set up on the casino grounds. It was so interesting to see Veterans connecting and sharing their stories. The Vietnam era Veterans are very involved with ensuring that what happened to them when they returned home does not happen again. Jesus Montes is a Veteran who served during WWII, Korea and Vietnam. “When I returned home from Vietnam, people threw trash and tomatoes and called me a ‘Baby Killer’,” he said. Montes volunteers with nine different Veterans groups. “I reach out to the younger guys because I know exactly what they are going through,” he added. Montes suffered from PTSD and the effects of Agent Orange and found that seeking help made a world of difference for him.
Veterans who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a Veteran in crisis, should call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year at 800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online at Veterans Crisis Online or send a text message to 838255.
Marguerite Cleveland is a freelance writer who specializes in human interest and travel stories. She is a military brat, a veteran and now a military spouse. Her military experience is vast as the daughter of a Navy man who served as an enlisted sailor and then Naval Officer. She served as an enlisted soldier in the reserves and on active duty, then as an Army Officer. She currently serves as a military spouse. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons. Visit her website www.WanderWordsWine.com