Nearly 400 Veterans and their guests were honored at the 17th annual Oneida Indian Nation Veterans Recognition Ceremony and Breakfast in the Oneida Room of the Turning Stone Resort Casino on Saturday, Nov. 4.
The event commemorates men and women that serve and have served in the United States Armed Forces and acknowledges heroes lost in combat. Many U.S. Vets who served during recent conflicts in the Middle East were in attendance, as were others that served in Korea and Vietnam. Eight Veterans from World War II were also in attendance.
As America’s first ally, the Oneida Nation takes great pride in its history of service to this country; a history that dates back to the Revolutionary War. Major General Walter E. Piatt, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander – the event’s keynote speaker – highlighted this significant alliance in his speech. He spoke of Polly Cooper’s service and heroism traveling from Oneida Homelands to Valley Forge to bring Gen. George Washington’s starving troops hundreds of bushels of white corn during the Revolutionary War. He also acknowledged the Oneidas’ service at the Battle of Oriskany in 1777, a significant turning point in the American Revolution that prevented British troops from isolating the New England region.
“The Oneida Nation’s early commitment was absolutely necessary,” Gen. Piatt said. “Without the Oneida Nation, who knows if it would have turned out as it did.”
10th Mountain Division Commander Major General Piatt Addresses Veterans at
17th Annual Oneida Nation Veterans Recognition Ceremony
The native of Somerset, PA shared his personal story of service with everyone in the room. Piatt enlisted in the Army out of high school in 1979 and served as an Infantryman for four years. After an extensive education that included a fellowship with the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University’s Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service and two Master’s degrees in Military Science and Military History from Lock Haven University, he served with the 10th Mountain Division in Fort Drum from 1999-2003 and later returned to the same division to serve as the DCG-S from 2012-2013.
Piatt told stories of his father’s service and of a fellow Officer’s compassion and connection with children in a northern Iraqi school who lost his life. It was family, community and fellow Veterans that were the driving force for Piatt to join the Armed Forces.
“People like my dad and [fellow Officer] Alex fought so we could be free,” Piatt said in closing. “And there’s no greater honor than to serve and protect this nation in my hometown.”
Ron Patterson (Wolf Clan), who served as the event’s emcee, and Oneida Nation Council Member Dale Rood (Turtle Clan) introduced Maj. Gen. Piatt following the posting of the colors directed by Jim Conners from VFW Post 2246 in Rome, NY and the setting of the POW/MIA Remembrance table led by Ron Barry also from VFW Post 2246. Mary Blau (Turtle Clan) read the Thanksgiving address in the Oneida language.
Glen Wheelock Jr., also a Veteran and member of VFW Post 2246, participated in the opening presentations. He, too, served in the 10th Mountain Division in Fort Drum. “I’ve been coming to this event for four years now,” he said. “It’s a great honor to be here each year.” Glen’s father, Glen Sr. (Turtle Clan), served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.
A few tables over, Vaughn “Chip” Isaacs (Turtle Clan), a Veteran that served two tours of duty in Vietnam from 1967-1969 as an Army Ranger, sat with several friends and family. Chip served with the U.S Army Special Forces 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 that division’s battle against the Vietcong. Lisa Latocha (Wolf Clan), who served in the Army from 1990-1992 during the first Gulf War, was also in attendance.
Oneida Nation Legacy of Standing with America
Continues through Service and Recognition of Veterans
After Maj. Gen. Piatt’s inspiring speech, Dale and Ron presented him with a copy of the book Forgotten Allies: The Oneida Indians and the American Revolution, by Joseph Glatthaar and James Kirby Martin, and an Oneida friendship feather, to thank him for his service and honor his commitment to protect and serve the country.
A $1,000 check was presented to the Feed Our Vets – Utica Pantry Director, Joseph Ancona. Dale, Ron and Oneida Nation Council Member and Korean War Veteran Keller George (Wolf Clan), posed with Maj. Gen. Piatt and Fort Drum Garrison Commander Col. Kenneth “Dean” Harrison for photos and spoke with the guests at the conclusion of the event.
Ron began the event saying it was a tremendous honor to welcome Gold Star families, noting that without them we wouldn’t have the protection or freedom we enjoy today. That sentiment was present throughout the event. “Thank you to all the Veterans for your devotion and continued service to this country,” Ron said. “Oneidas are proud to have served in every conflict since the Revolutionary War to protect our freedom…be proud of who you are.”
Dale said the remarkable support for local Veterans and the large turnout was truly special.
“It was wonderful to see so many Veterans in one place,” Dale said after the breakfast. “It was an honor to be there and to meet and introduce someone of the stature of Major General Piatt.”
The Fallen Stars Memorial, which recognizes New York State men and women who died during Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts is a traveling tribute highlighted at the event. The mural depicts the faces, names, hometowns, ranks and branches of service of 321 Fallen Stars.
After the event, many guests visited Oneida Heritage. The Sherrill store and museum educates visitors about the Oneidas’ history and continued service in the United States military and sells handcrafted Oneida jewelry, baskets, artwork and lacrosse sticks. It is also home to several historic military items such as cannons, muskets, swords and authentic military vehicles and uniforms that can be rented.