Hello everyone, and thank you for the invitation to join you today.
I’m sorry that I am not able to be with you all for this incredible milestone – this memorial is a meaningful reminder to all about the sacrifices that Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Nations have given to our country during World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and finally the Post- Vietnam and Gulf War Era.
I can’t begin to express my gratitude to our warriors. Your courage, your sacrifice, and your commitment to protecting our homelands is an example of who we are as a people.
My parents are part of a proud tradition of service to our country – it’s a tradition that many Indigenous families embrace. My dad was a first generation American in the Marines and my mom was a Pueblo woman in the Navy.
While my dad served in Vietnam, my mom would sit us down at the kitchen table to write him letters. Even at that early age, I knew that he couldn’t be with us, because he had a responsibility to be somewhere else in the world.
It was how I learned what service to your country was.
As I became more connected with Native veterans in my community, I learned why Native American service in the military is so profound. It comes from a sense of obligation to our land. It comes from a sense of obligation to the communities we live in. It comes from a sense of obligation to future generations.
Our country owes a great deal of gratitude to the Native American veteran community. Our community continuously has the highest rate of military service throughout history and we wear that badge of service proudly.
It’s with memorials like the Path of Honor Wind River Veterans Memorial that we honor our warriors and their sacrifices.
The military service of Indigenous veterans has made our country into what it is today. The men and women honored here, and those of you with us today, have made us all proud to be Americans.
I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart who has been involved in moving this project forward for the past decade!
This memorial is truly something that we can all be proud of.
Full statement from U.S. Secretary of the Interior - Deb Haaland