Dozens of veterans processed into the main tent while musicians played traditional music on drums and chanted.

Most of the veterans were dressed in a combination of military and tribal attire, and many carried eagle staffs -- large sticks decorated with beads and feathers that carried special significance to the holder.

Linda Woods of the Traverse City, Michigan, area, said she carries her staff for all of the women who've served in the military. She said one of the 45 feathers on her staff, which is topped with a real eagle's head, is dedicated to Lori Piestewa, a Hopi woman and a U.S. Army soldier who was killed in action in 2003 during the Iraq War. Woods served in the Air Force as a switchboard operator during the Vietnam War and was the only native female veteran there on Saturday.

One by one, all the veterans took a turn at the microphone introducing themselves and placing their eagle staffs in flagpole bases lined up on the side of the stage.

Andy Jackson, a volunteer on the tribal council, said attendees keep the eagle staffs together to represent that the veterans who've died are also gathering with them.

Woods was emotional when it was her turn to speak.

"It is such a beautiful honor to be here," Woods said.

The gathering took place near Cantigny's entrance on ground that had been softened by overnight rains. In addition to the veterans and their families, others honored the occasion as well. Wheaton mayor Mike Gresk read a proclamation recognizing the gathering.

Around the grounds, there were signs posted with facts about American Indians and the U.S. military.

One said 400 Navajo servicemen were recruited to be code talkers during World War II and were part of every Marine Corps assault in the Pacific theater of the war from 1942 to 1945. Alfred Newman of Kirkland, New Mexico, was one of the code talkers who attended.

Another sign said an estimated 12,000 American Indians served in World War I -- even though they weren't granted citizenship until 1924.

Also on Saturday, retired Maj. Gen. James T. Jackson, the director of Vietnam War Commemoration, presented pins to all Vietnam veterans at the gathering. The gathering will conclude Sunday afternoon with the retiring of flags and colors.

Responses to "Native American veterans of all wars and of all tribes gather at Cantigny"

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