Preview Event for The Gathering
Speech Below as Prepared for Delivery by USAF (Ret.) Lt. Col. Rene' Locklear White, executive director for The Gathering and first female veteran key-note speaker for the Lumbee Indian Warriors Association Veterans Military Ball. The event kicked off this week's Lumbee Indian Homecoming where 50,000 Lumbees are welcomed
"Military conflicts did not spring up out of our land. Wars are passed down to us through generation after generation.
Now we have Afghanistan. Iraq. There was also Kosovo. Somalia.
I’ve been stationed or pass through the Pentagon, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Germany, Sarajevo, Croatia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, South Korea, Africa and a few other places. I joined the Air Force just before the Gulf War began.
My brother James Frankie Locklear served in the Gulf region along with more than 3,000 Native American Indians. Several Native Americans lost their lives in the Gulf War including Specialist Lori Ann Piestewa of the Hopi. Piestewa was the first Native American woman in history to die in combat while serving with the United States military.
There has been Panama. Libya. Grenada. Beirut. Iran.
During Vietnam more than 42,000 Native American Indians served in the Armed Forces between 1965 and 1975.
My uncles Joe, Wilbur and Marvin served during the Korean War with more than 10,000 Native American Indians.
During WWII more than 44,000 Native American Indians from 1941 to 1945 served, including women and more than 400 Navajo and Lakota “Code Talkers”.
My grandfather Frank Locklear served as an Army Private along with about 12,000 American Indians in WWI which included American Indian women in the Army Nurse Corps.
Before our grandfathers and grandmothers, war was here.
WHY DID WE JOIN?
We each have different reasons why we joined the military. Maybe it was because you were drafted. Maybe because of what you hold dear. This is my family. This is my country. This is my faith. This is threatened. They are the enemy. They will not hurt what I hold dear. They will not hurt what I love.
The Bible describes many types of warriors. Some of you joined as boys, like King David. Some of you liked to smash things up with a donkey-jaw bone like Samson. Others of you tore down walls and took over cities like Joshua. In Vietnam, many of you used guerrilla warfare like Gideon. Some of us were like Ahab working in international affairs and as Diplomats. Probably most of you were considered handsome and charismatic like Saul. I'm sure all of you ladies took charge like Deborah. And a number of you other ladies know how to use a hammer like Jael.
We all took an oath as a warrior for a cause; for something greater than themselves.
Jesus said, “Greater love has NO ONE than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
Who knew that being a warrior is an act of LOVE?
WHAT WE CARRY
When we went into the war zone we carried a lot with us.
Author Tim O'Brien and Vietnam War veteran wrote about "The Things They Carried" during Vietnam. He wrote that:
First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, a platoon leader who cares about his men, carries photos and letters from the girl he loves back home in New Jersey, who doesn't love him back.
Bob "Rat" Kiley is a likeable and skilled medic carries comic books, brandy and M&Ms.
Kiowa is a kind and moral soldier from Oklahoma, a Native American Indian, and devout Baptist. He carries an illustrated New Testament, worn-out moccasins and his grandfather's feathered hunting hatchet.
Henry Dobbins is a large, strong and dependable, machine gunner carries extra rations and wears his girlfriend's pantyhose tied around his neck.
In the Lumbee novel, “Moon Dash Warrior,” author and Vietnam veteran Delano Cummings describes, trudging through 120 degree temperatures, low crawling through mountains, jungles and rice paddies, getting hit by sniper fire and mortars and watching friends die.
All the while, you’re trying to avoid trip flares, claymore mines, booby-trapped grenades and biting insects. It’s hard to carry your C-rats, coffee packets, heat tablets, grenades, M-60 machine gun ammo, pop flairs, canteen, flak jackets and M-14, rifle belt, helmet, 782 gear and more when the spot you’re standing in is hotter than a tobacco barn. It’s also hard to pilot a helicopter when you have no place to land.
You Lumbee Warriors have carried a lot. You also carried grief, loss, terror, secrets and memories. All of you have carried all you could bear, and then some.
You Lumbee Indian Warriors have made lasting contributions to our nation’s rich heritage, not the least of which has been in the defense of our freedoms. Our freedom of speech. Our freedom to worship. You carried, so that we could carry on.
When we come home from battle, we carry a lot home too.
For those of you who came home from Vietnam, on top of the weight you brought home, perhaps the cruelest aspect of the war was the treatment you received WHEN you came home: A negative and hostile news media; Protesters carrying signs with anti-war slogans; An entertainment industry that did not have your best interest in mind.
To those who served in Vietnam and returned home not to find parades, bands, speeches and celebrations,
I AM SORRY!
PLEASE FORGIVE US.
WE LOVE YOU.
America should have been proud of you from the start, for you were and are a remarkable group of men and women.
STILL LOOKING FOR THE MISSING
For those still missing in action, we have not forgotten them. One of the units I was assigned with investigated, excavated and repatriated remains of U.S. personnel missing or killed in action in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Our small teams typically included a team sergeant, linguist, medic, life support technician, forensic photographer, communications and an explosive ordnance disposal or EOD technician. Additional experts sometimes included mountaineering specialists or divers.
The last person accounted is Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Edwin E. Morgan, 38, of Eagle Spring, N.C., who was buried today (June 27) in Rockwell, N.C. He was assigned to the 6252nd Combat Support Group, as the loadmaster of an AC-47D gunship aircraft, that departed Da Nang Air Base, Vietnam, on an armed reconnaissance mission along the Vietnam-Laos border. The aircraft failed to return and neither Morgan nor the aircraft was seen again. Morgan was listed missing in action and a military review board later amended his status to presumed dead.
Today there are 1,627 American service members that are still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.
I’ve been to Vietnam, Cambodia and Loas. I flew on-board Russian-made M-17 helicopters landing in Vietnam’s remote and mountainous sites in search of those who did not make it home. What did I carry? I carried a photo of my daughter. A notebook. Pens. Camera. Taped up my pants in case there were leaches. Took this shot, that shot and more shots to immunize against who knows what. I also carried questions like, “what kind of mother am I be in another country, when I can’t stay home to take care of my own family?”
When my daughter Kara (sitting over there) was a little girl, I had to leave her home a lot. My sister Janice (sitting at the head table) came all the way to Hawaii to help me take care of Kara and my house. My husband wasn’t able to be there. Once, when Janice was helping me and Kara must have been five or six years old, I was trying to be funny and cheerful as I readied for my deployment.
She said, “mom.” “Hold out your hand.” I held out my hand. She leaned over and kissed the inside of my hand. Then she said, “now close it.” “Now,” she said. “Don’t worry, I will always be with you. I love you.”
After my Vietnam trips, I made it back. Some of my friends did not. One late Saturday afternoon on April 7th, 2001 we lost seven Americans servicemen and nine Vietnamese military men when their helicopter slammed into a mountain during a fog storm: Air Force Maj. Charles E. Lewis; Air Force TSgt. Robert Flynn; Air Force MSgt. Stephen L. Moser; Army Sgt. First Class Tommy J. Murphy; Navy Chief Petty Officer Pedro Gonzales; Army Lt. Col. George D. Martin III; and Army Lt. Col. Rennie M. Cory Jr.
LEARNING ABOUT DNA
It was during my Joint Task Force assignments that I learned about DNA from our forensic anthropologists and how they use DNA to account for those missing in action.
In simplistic terms, you can think of our DNA as two strands of a pearl necklaces twisted around each other, where each pearl represents a gene that is responsible for part of what you are, such as eye color, hair texture, whether you are male or female.
Men and women carry DNA through the nucleus of all of our cells. However, in the case of those missing in action from the Vietnam War, we find such small amounts of material evidence (or bodily remains) there isn’t enough of this type DNA to confirm identification; mainly because the soil is so acidic it quickly destroys what was left behind 40 years ago.
As it turns out, there’s unique Mitochondrial DNA in our cells that is passed down to us ALL by our mothers. It is this mDNA that comes down from our mothers and grandmothers that we are using to ID and account for those missing in action.
"You carried, so that we could carry on," Rene' Locklear White during the 2015 Lumbee Indian Warriors Ball, June 27 in Pembroke N.C.
All of you men and women carry your mother’s mitochondrial DNA, but only we mothers have mDNA to pass onto our children.
You fathers cannot pass down your mDNA to your children. You fathers sacrificed your mDNA at the point of conception to help create life. You fathers here, your fathers and your grandfathers gave of themselves, all the way down to their cells, that we may all have life.
Our DNA code is the source code for our life. Our DNA helps us identify ourselves as Lumbee Indians.
Close to 200 people attended the Lumbee Warriors Association Veterans Military Ball, kicking off the 2015 Lumbee Homecoming including Tribal dignitaries and former and reigning queens and princesses.
TRAUMA ALL THE WAY TO THE DNA
The science of epigenetics, proposes that we pass along more than DNA in our genes. It suggests that our genes can carry memories of trauma experienced by our ancestors and can influence how we react to trauma and stress.
Scientists studying DNA indicate that our grandmothers and grandfathers carried and passed down trauma in their DNA. Which means trauma our Native American Indians ancestors experienced then may actually be woven into our DNA now.
The Academy of Pediatrics reports that trauma experienced by earlier generations can influence the structure of our genes, making them more likely to “switch on” negative responses to stress and trauma.
But, we didn’t really need scientist to tell us Indian folk that what happened in our past still affects us.
Science is trying to catch up with what we know to be true right here (pointing to heart) – what is written on our hearts and minds.
Lumbee inter-generational trauma is real. Warrior trauma is real.
Our ancestors experienced persistence of stress associated with discrimination, annihilation and historical trauma. Now, our Native Peoples not only suffer from PTSD, we have high rates of depression, substance abuse, diabetes and suicide.
While pharmaceutical companies search for drug solutions, our warriors are still going into battle carrying much and carrying even more back home.
NO END IN SIGHT
A few more winters. A few more moons. A few more battles. There is NO end in sight after a decade of deployments.
Increased IEDs. Rich nations fighting back with drones, and a growing Joint Special Operations Command.
Peace is a dirty word in our government today and the hope of peace has even faded from our children’s video games.
Who would have every thought that “peace” would be removed from the aspect of war in our time?
This is a different kind of war. Right now our military leaders are reshaping what it means to be a warrior. If we are not careful, this perpetual war will isolate our Lumbee Warriors away from our own communities.
THE NATIVE WAY
The Native definition of warrior is being replaced by the English definition of warrior. The English version is, “to make war.”
I believe innately we Lumbees are a peaceable people.
Native American Indian tradition tells us, when our young men and women are called to go to war, there was a ceremony we hold to prepare them for what he or she might see, might do and might have to sacrifice. This is a WARRIOR’S CEREMONY. After they came back from war, and before they enter back into our society, we hold another ceremony so our warriors can leave the war-maker behind, along with the atrocities they have seen, experienced and suffered. This is also so that you the tribe and community will not be tainted by war. So as our young men and women enter back in to our Lumbee society not as the warrior, but as a father, a mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, and friend of our community.
Our Native American tradition also tells us, many tribes were Matriarchal societies, with women in the leadership roles. I think you’d agree if more women were in charge today, we’d have less wars and a lot more BBQs.
Even in the Patriarchal societies where men were in leadership roles, tradition tells us that the women sat just outside the men’s circle. The men could hear the breath of the women which guided them in their decision to go to war.
About 40 years ago, it was the grandmothers who stood up for the injustice, perpetrated against the indigenous which spurred the founding of the American Indian Movement. I know this, because Dennis Banks co-founder of AIM told my husband and me this when we were all sitting our front porch last year.
THERE IS HOPE
The current war will continue to add further stress on our DNA, because we are a peaceable people at heart.
If you grow weary, know this, there is another type of DNA that can carry us through.
Exodus 15:3 says: “The Lord is a warrior.” And Revelation 19, says He’s coming back as a warrior. It says He’s coming back riding a white horse and wearing a blood-stained white robe, leading a mighty Army with a sword.
The oath we took, and had faith towards, ended with, “so help me God.” God is Great Spirit. Great Mystery. Mother Earth is dust from which our bodies came and will return. And faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen - right now.
We are Lumbee Indians. Being Indian is our “way of life.”
Take heart mighty Warriors, though our physical bodies are becoming older and weaker.
The Spirit inside us is being renewed day by day. Creator God is not done with you yet.
Keep fighting on the winning side. You are still making an impact now. All your words and actions send out vibrations STILL.
Women. You know what? “We can do it.”
But you know what’s more. “We have done it.”
Men! Thank you for sacrificing for us all.
"THE WAY" OF LIFE
We have the God-given power to create - the ability to create NEW possibilities to heal our own DNA; the DNA of our servicemen and women today; and the DNA of our unborn children tomorrow.
Let us lean to our Native ways. Let us carry the wisdom passed down to us from our grandfathers and grandmothers to help guide us on our walk.
You’re more than a warrior. By your way of being, you are Fathers. Mothers. Leaders. Friends. Role models.
I tell you the truth. You are Native American Indians.
Celebrate our relationship with Mother Earth and Creator God. Celebrate that we are all related. Celebrate that we are the “Keepers of the Earth.”
My prayer for you is that we be victorious in loving one another and help bring ALL people back into the sacred hoop.
And remember, all the way down to your DNA you are fearfully and wonderfully made!
Mitakuye Oyasin. To all my relations."
Lumbee Warriors Association Officers
Chairman U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.) MGYSGT Furnie Lambert, Jr., Vice Chairman U.A. Army (Ret.) Command Sergeant Major Gary Deese; Cultural Representative Mr. Garth Locklear; Sergeant at Arms, National Guard Veteran SFC Dwayne Hunt; and Quartermaster U.S. Army Veteran Mr. Donnie Locklear
Master of Ceremonies was U.S. Army (Ret.) Command Sergerant Major Gary W. Deese; presentation of the colors by U.S. Army (Ret.) SSgt Harold Hunt; National Anthem by 2015 Jr. Miss Lumbee Calista Deal; U.S> Army (Ret.) Missing Warrior Table Specialist Five Larry Townsend; Invocation by Rev. Dr. Keenith Locklear Gateway Superintendent United Methodist Conference; introduction of Guest of Honor Delora Cummings; and Guest of Honor U.S. Air Force (Ret.) Lt. Col. Rene' Locklear White; and dancing music provided by Sandhills Sounds.
Embrace the Spirit