The Osage Nation celebrated Sunday the unveiling of a veterans memorial, the granite panels of which bear the names of more than 1,200 veterans with more to be added every year, as they are submitted.
“The Osage Veterans Memorial is a remarkable tribute to our Osage veterans,” Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said during a ceremony Sunday morning at the memorial on the grounds of the Osage Nation Museum. “We cannot do enough to honor them.”
Congresswoman Angela Pratt briefly recounted the legislative history of appropriations to support the construction of the memorial, and noted that Standing Bear had sponsored the original bill.
“My heart is bursting with pride to be in the presence of so many heroes of all walks of life,” Pratt said, speaking to a crowd of hundreds, both those who found seats under the large tent erected for the occasion and those who remained standing. “This memorial is long overdue.”
Pratt, who is a U.S. Army veteran, also thanked the contractors who made a reality of the memorial concept.
“The Osage Nation is eternally grateful for what your hands have done,” she said.
Lance Woolsey, speaking for Wallace Engineering, which designed the memorial, replied to Pratt’s thank-you with one of his own.
“Thank you for allowing us to bring this vision to life,” Woolsey said. “May you find peace and lasting healing here for a long time.”
The notion of the memorial as a place to seek healing also surfaced in remarks offered by John Henry Mashunkashey shortly before Frances West-Williams formally cut the opening ribbon.
Mashunkashey commented about the “spiritual need” of veterans and emphasized the potential of the Osage Veterans Memorial to be a place of “spiritual healing for the American veteran.”
Franklin McKinley, a U.S. Navy veteran who chaired the Osage Veterans Memorial Commission, spoke along similar lines.
“There is a closeness we can feel here,” McKinley said. “We dedicate this site as a sacred place for our Osage veterans and all veterans.”
Members of the Memorial Commission included McKinley, Mashunkashey, Marvin Stepson, Frances West-Williams and Richard Perrier. Maria D. DeRoin, a Navy veteran, handled communications duties for the Commission.
Brigadier Gen. Louis W. Wilham, assistant adjutant general of the Oklahoma Army National Guard, offered keynote remarks Sunday morning and praised the efforts of the Osage Nation to honor its veterans as well as others.
“I can honestly say this is probably the best Veterans Day ceremony I have been a part of,” Wilham said. He offered a brief overview of the history of the units from which the Oklahoma Army National Guard has descended, and paid tribute to the valor of Native American soldiers.
During the ceremony, the Osage Nation honored several military veterans with ceremonial blankets in acknowledgement of their dedication. The unveiling ceremony for the new memorial began at 9:30 a.m. and concluded at 11 a.m., with the centennial of the armistice that ended World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.