Oneida Indian Nation honors hundreds of area veterans
VERONA — The Oneida Indian Nation hosted nearly 400 local veterans and honored them for their service at its 21st annual Veterans Recognition Ceremony and Breakfast.
“This [event] has become a tradition for our region’s veterans as a place to come together and honor your service and devotion to this country,” said Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter.
Guest speakers this year included Major General Gregory Anderson, commanding general, 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum and Vice Admiral Robert Murrett.
Halbritter said the institutions that Anderson and Murrett represent are important voices in the region. “And this region has been committed to supporting the military and its veterans since the founding of this nation,” he said. “And that commitment began many years ago when the Oneida people joined the colonists fighting for freedom, becoming America’s first allies.”
“[And] honoring our region’s veterans has never been more important,” Halbritter added. “
Anderson is a native of San Jose, California, and was commissioned into the infantry upon graduation from the United States Military Academy in 1991.
Anderson holds master’s degree from the Navy Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, and United States War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.
Anderson has deployed to operations in Haiti, Panama, Bosnia, the Baltic States, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Iraq. His military awards and decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, The Ranger Tab, EIB, CIB, Master Parachutists Badge, and Air Assault Badge.
Anderson thanked all the veterans in attendance for their courage and active love for their country.
“At some point in your life, you left your comforts of home and loved ones to protect them,” Anderson said. “Service to others is at the very heart of what it means to be a warrior. Your personal example matters more now today than you know. And we need it now more than ever at a time when many in our nation are struggling to find their own path to service and what service means.”
“We’re going to need our veterans to show our youth the way in the coming years,” he continued.
Murrett is a professor of practice at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and serves as the deputy director of the Institute Security Policy and Law at the University.
Previously, Murrett was a career intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy, serving in assignments throughout the Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East through his 34 years of duty, retiring as a vice admiral.
“As we approach Veterans Day and start Native American Heritage Month, it’s important that we give time to reflect on the debt of thanks we owe to our veterans and their families,” Murrett said. “The origins of Veterans Day go back to November 1918, marking the end of one of the most far reaching conflicts in the annals of history. And it included participation of the Oneida Indian Nation. And that participation goes back to [the Revolutionary War].”
The Oneida Indian Nation has participated in America’s wars throughout history and honored at Tuesday’s event was Vaughn “Chip” Isaacs, of the Turtle Clan. Isaacs is a Vietnam veteran who served two tours of duty from 1966 to 1969 as a long-range reconnaissance patrol specialist with the Army Rangers.
He’s an honored warrior and appeared in fellow veteran and Officer Bill Goshen’s Book, “War Paint: The 1st Infantry Division’s LRP/Ranger Company in Fierce Combat in Vietnam,” which provides a first-hand account of the division’s battle against the Viet Cong.
After his time serving in the armed forces, Isaacs became an iron worker and an award-winning artist — mainly working with ornate jewelry and carvings.
Isaacs was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam, which led to a throat cancer diagnosis, which took his voice.
Isaacs was honored at the ceremony and gifted a handcrafted blanket by the Oneida Indian Nation, inspired by the warrior’s circle of honor memorial at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
“Today, [Isaacs] is the last living Oneida Indian Nation member who served in Vietnam,” Halbritter said. “[His] story and sacrifices embodies our commitment to the U.S. armed forces.”
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