True Patriots — Tecumseh, Oklahoma, April 2007

The Crossroads Academy and V-5 Institute Board has had little help from me recently, but I haven’t “quit” either, especially when I get opportunities to meet with some of God’s good men and women. So I and mine did this past weekend at the Rominger home in Tecumseh. The occasion was filled with conversation, board business (redefining, reorganizing), spiritual devotion, some great meals (thanks Janelle) and a good dose of Oklahoma history courtesy of Dr. Don Rominger. It is a rich history, and none are more aware of it than the numerous American Indians who in the twisting course of events had much befall them in Anglo-America. Yet they–and the rest of us–are part of a much more complex America that includes everyone (not always happily) but still permits special identities. That is no more so than with Indian identity, tribal belonging.

This past weekend our board president received, in absentia, a token, a totem of unity and patriotism, a gift in honor of his own military service, patriotism, and love of the United States and what our nation best represents, a ceremonial working/battle axe. It was also in honor of his sons, one of whom, a Marine lieutenant, still is recovering from burn injuries received in Iraq from a roadside bomb that killed most of his brothers-in-arms. Those injuries will force his retirement, which he must accept, though reluctantly, and earlier than he wished.

The giver? An elder representing the Citizen Pottawatomie tribe of Oklahoma. The recipient and his son? Members via Mexican ancestry, in part, of the Yaqui tribe. Yet all are citizens of the United States, heirs to a tradition of patriotism based not in what some consider a threatening militarism but in their convictions that they can best serve their country as members of a proud, distinguished service branch of the American Armed Forces. And these Marines have served well.

The United States includes many amazing people, humans whose backgrounds, convictions, and accomplishments can only evoke encouragement and admiration. I learned this past weekend about the long tradition of military service among the Cheyenne of the Middle and Northern Plains. Where in the social histories do we learn that the Indians are more than just a formerly oppressed group? Where do we learn that among them, always, have been individuals and groups who transcended the difficulties of accommodation and integration to the larger Anglo-European society, who came to share fully in it, yet who, paradoxically, retained their traditions as best they could? I am interested to learn more about the American Plains warriors whose love of country is a lesson for all Americans — not to glorify war, though some surely might, but to be reminded that in a world where wars will occur, there are patriots whose best response is to take part.