OKEECHOBEE — The 32nd anniversary Seminole Veterans celebration and recognition ceremony was held on Thursday, Nov. 7, in the beautiful veterans building on the Brighton Reservation. According to former chairman of the Seminole Tribe Mitchell Cypress, the first ceremony took place after he, Roy Nash Osceola and Jacob Osceola decided they should honor their boys for serving their country. One of the boys, Roy Osceola’s son, lost his life while serving, and his father wanted to acknowledge him in some way. They decided to have a celebration and a barbecue, but unfortunately, he said, Roy Osceola passed away before Veterans Day that year. They held the ceremony anyway, with veterans from Big Cypress Reservation attending, and it has grown bigger each year, with more vets attending from other reservations and from the surrounding towns and neighborhoods.
This year’s celebration was well attended by both tribal vets and veteran neighbors and friends. Students from the Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School gave speeches. CeCe Thomas specifically requested the honor of giving a speech and her teacher granted her request. In her speech, she quoted former president Barak Obama and said, “It is about how we treat our veterans every single day of the year. It’s about making sure they have the care they need and the benefits they have earned when they come home. It’s about serving all of you as well as you have served the United States of America.” In his speech, Wyatt Thornton quoted George S. Patton and said, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”
Miss Florida Seminole Princess Durante Blais-Billie said, “All Natives must step forward to fight for the rights of our veterans, to honor the sacrifices they have made for our freedom and our sacred homeland.” Miss Indian World Cheyenne Kippenberger spoke about rights that we have — not because they were bestowed upon us but because the veterans fought for them. She said our way of life has been defended by these men and women again and again.
The guest speaker was U.S. Navy veteran Michael Trim from WPTV channel 5. One of the things he mentioned was that in the military, you found a way to work as one, because you are only as strong as your weakest link. When he got out of the military, he realized how sacred being a veteran is, he said. They all have one thing in common and speak one language. They can all answer the questions, ”Where did you serve? Where were you in the military? How was that? How did your family do with that? How was it when you got back?” He said these are questions they can all relate to, and no one can take that away from them.
After he spoke, he was presented with a hand-crafted Seminole jacket and was jokingly told to wear it on air.
The ceremony concluded with several veterans being singled out for special recognition, including the master of ceremonies Andrew J. Bowers, who was shocked when he was called forward to be honored for his services, both past and present and finally all living Native veterans were called forward to be recognized.
After the ceremony, a lunch was served outdoors to all in attendance.