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Remembering our World War I and II Veterans

Remembering our World War I and II Veterans

By: Victor Swallows 

native sun news today correspondent

 

A holiday I always hold dear to my heart is Veteran’s Day.  As an Oglala Lakota raised on the Pine Ridge Reservation growing up people who served our country we held in the highest honor.  Veteran’s Day has come and gone. This year I tried to go down and see the parade but with the high wind I didn’t go.  My cousin Robert Two Bulls who served in the Navy during the Korean War is usually with the Korean Veterans in the parade.  Tm Giago, also a Korean Navy veteran, sometimes rides in the parade.

 

As a veteran who served 4 years in the Navy I have respect for anyone who joined and served their country.  I want to write about men that stood out in my mind who gave their lives for our country.  Many of these veterans came home broken while others handled it pretty good considering they had to experience traumatic events and took human lives.  I’ll write a little something about each of them.  Years ago I was visiting my aunt Edna Serry and asked why her aunt Margie Gallisipie-Dreamer got married so late in life.  She said the man she was supposed to marry joined the army and went to serve in World War I and got killed.  I asked her what his name was and she said she couldn’t remember.  About a-half-hour later I ask her again and she said it was Sam White Bear.  This was during a time when Natives were not citizens of the United States of American and not allowed to vote.

 

 

The other person I know who served in World War I was Charles (Blooch) Wilson who was a rough neck.  Blooch had hands the size of a bears paws and a nasal talk he was a very entertaining a guy who did things out of the ordinary.  My mother said she thought Blooch served in World War II also and would have been in his mid-40s.

 

I want to mention the following people by name who served in World War II; my cousin Earl Two Bulls who is the second son of Stern Two Bulls who lost his life on some island in the West Pacific.  My uncle Woodrow Swallow was 17 when he joined the Navy.  The way my father John Swallow tells it uncle Woodrow’s dad had to sign for him to join the Navy.  Dad said, “He was just a boy,” and his voice would break.  Decade’s later uncle would never talk to me about the war but he told my cousin Oliver Swallow when Pearl Harbor was bombed uncle Woodrow was on a ship. He saw something came rolling across the deck and it was somebody’s head.  When he was discharged he came back to South Dakota and farmed and had a small herd of cattle.  Uncle Woodrow left the state in the 1950s and moved to Utah and became a certified diesel mechanic. He handled his war experiences pretty well.

 

Another veteran I want to honor is Pat Cuny who lived in the Red Shirt area most of his life he served in the Army in World War II over in Europe.  He didn’t talked much about the war but he did tell me the Russian army came to help.  Pat said they had real long rifles and a big loaf of black bread and a bottle of vodka.  Many of them were drunk and headed toward the Germans.  His words were, “They mowed them down.”  Pat lived alone never married and had no children that I know of.  He was the last of the real cowboys he lived at one time alone along the Cheyenne River on the Pine Ridge Reservation.   Pat took care of cattle in the badlands.  He loved rodeos and liked a good party.  When Pat passed away the services were held at the fairgrounds in Hermosa.  Many people were there to pay their respects to a war hero.  Pat had a good heart and a sense of humor but with a foul mouth.  A good example of his sense of humor is when my Cousin Oliver Swallow’s friend who was a trucker came up to get some buffalo meat.   The trucker would cook black eyed peas with sorghum syrup and my cousin baked biscuits.  Those of us that were there ate including Pat.  The next year when Cousin Oliver’s trucker friend came back and he cooked up the same dish Oliver called Pat and asked are you coming over to eat?   Pat said, “Hell No! I am still farting from the last time I ate that stuff.”  To this day when I think of Pat I remember him saying that and it still makes me laugh.

 

My cousin Mazie married Steve Red Bow was a full blood who served in the Army over in Europe.  He said he was captured and they were taking them somewhere in a cattle car on a train.  Steve said it was during the winter and there was lots of snow.  He and another solider jump out of the train into a snow bank and somehow made it to an allied camp.  Steve was injured and lost one of his kidneys and probably other internal organs.  He drew some kind of a pension.  Steve was a humble caring person.  He and Mazie had no natural children but adopted 2 children who they loved and raised.  Steve functioned well and was good at basketball, baseball and a good saddle bronc rider.

 

Another World II vet I know but never talked to is Eddie Rooks.  He would come to Redshirt to visit his cousin Emily Janis-Two Bulls who was married to my uncle Jake Two Bulls.  As I understood that Eddie had lost a leg in the war in Europe and used crutches.  He drove a fairly new car a 1949 Buick and he like to drink. My uncle Jake was thrilled when Eddie came they would head for town.  One story they told, Eddie drove on somebody’s lawn and got stuck they bailed out of the car and started to run down the street.  Uncle said Eddie kept up with him.  Eddie would fall a little behind and then lurch ahead.  Uncle Jake said afterwards they had a good laugh.

There are many others that went to war and did their duty.  They are all gone now and we never did enough for them.  There are some I knew and others I didn’t know very well.  My cousin Elizabeth was married to Ambrose Belt who was in the Navy.  I found out from his daughter Mary that he fought against the Japanese.  Ambrose was a humble kind hearted man who got along with everyone.  He owned horses some through breeds that he raced.

 

All these men went as teenagers to serve their country without question.  Then came home with many issues but for the most part did ok.  I like to end this article with something my mother Lizzie Two Bulls-Swallow told me that stayed with me all these years.   She said some Native from the Eastern part of the state got killed in World War II when they brought his body home his people wanted to bury him in Sioux City’s cemetery.  The city wouldn’t allow it so President Truman had him buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  I wish all of the veterans that have passed on still were alive so I could shake their hand and tell them how thankful I am for their service.

 

I also wish I could tell them during the time they served their country and fought in the wars as a country we were united and didn’t hate each other.  Back then religion had meaning and people were more patriotic.  When you said the “Pledge of Allegiance” it meant something and people lived it.  Our country is far from perfect but it was a united people that had hope.  Unfortunately I can’t say it’s the same country with its values they fought for because of all of the hate and evil festering.

 

I keep thinking about when Pat Cuny told me when he was a teenager signing up for the war he said a lot of other teenagers lined up along with him.  During the World War I and II many of our men signed up as teenagers without a second thought and I think that is honorable.  I want to personally thank all of the people who enlisted to serve our country for laying their life on the line to make our country safe.   Many veterans come back physically, mentally and socially damaged and for some reason people look the other way.   As a society we seem to take veterans for granted never really realizing the sacrifices they made.

 

 

(Contact Victor Swallow at vikkilovestodance@gmail.com)

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