Veteran’s Day Serves as Great Reminder for Their Sacrifices

FireKeepers Casino Hotel and NHBP Personally Express Gratitude to Veterans

By Katie Halloran
Photos by NHBP Tribal Member and Photographer Johnathon Moulds

“Never let us forget this great gift of freedom,” said NHBP Tribal Council Chairperson Jamie Stuck during the FireKeepers Casino Hotel (FKCH) Veteran’s Day event on November 10.

More than 300 guests and Team Members gathered on the casino floor to pay tribute, honor and thank our Veterans who proudly served our country. This event marks the 14th time FKCH and NHBP have honored Veterans on this day, complete with representation from leadership from both the casino and NHBP Tribe. 

“We honor our Veterans for their service and commitment to their country, their land and their people,” said FireKeepers Casino Hotel Team Member Relations Manager Jannus Cottrell during the invocation.  

According to NICOA, American Indians have the highest record of military service, a rate five times higher than other ethnic groups, according to USO.org. 

While Stuck acknowledged the impressive rate of military participation for Indigenous Peoples, during his presentation, he shared the human element of the Native American military story by providing a snapshot of Native American World War II Veteran and Hero, Corporal Ira Hamilton Hayes:

Hayes was an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Community, located in Pinal and Maricopa counties in Arizona. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve on August 26, 1942, and, after recruit training, volunteered to become a Paramarine. He fought in the Bougainville and Iwo Jima campaigns during the Pacific War.

Hayes was generally known as one of the six men who appeared in the iconic photograph Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima by photographer Joe Rosenthal.

After the war ended, Hayes suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and descended into alcoholism. After a night of heavy drinking on January 23–24, 1955, he died of exposure to cold and alcohol poisoning. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on February 2, 1955.

Over the decades, Hayes’ life has inspired songs and movies. Most recently, in 2006, Hayes was portrayed by Adam Beach in the World War II movie Flags of Our Fathers, directed by Clint Eastwood.

Stuck and the other presenters encouraged the attendees to never forget the sacrifices that all our Veterans have made and continue to make.

As a way to honor these sacrifices, NHBP Community Drum performed a Song during the event. Kche Migwéch {big thank you} to NHBP Tribal Veteran Phil Foerster as he told the crowd how he enlisted in the military when he was a mere 17-years-old.

“Serving as Ogitchedaw {Warriors} has been a tradition within our society for thousands of years,” said NHBP Tribal Council Treasurer Dr. Jeff Chivis in an interview before the event. “We have an immense amount of appreciation and respect for our Veterans, and Veteran’s Day is a great reminder of the sacrifices they have made and their importance to our Community.” 

Not just expressing its thanks through its words, but also through its actions, FireKeepers Casino Hotel gifted all Veterans with free $10 slot play on Nov. 10 and 11, complete with a food voucher for $25 for those two days. The casino also hosted exclusive promotions for Veterans.

To close the event, FKCH Team Members lined up to personally shake the hands of all the Veterans in attendance. Words of thanks, praise, and even tears, were exchanged between Veterans and Team Members alike.

One Veteran approached FKCH leadership with tears in his eyes and a quiver in his throat: “I served 23 years in the Army and did two tours in Vietnam. Thank you so much for doing this.” 

To view all the photos from this remarkable event, please click here.

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