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Native American vets invited to Memorial Day Parade

Published 11:03pm Tuesday, May 25, 2010

By AARON MUELLER
Niles Daily Star

The South Bend chapter of the Rolling Thunder is hoping to recognize a group of veterans on Memorial Day that often are overlooked by many Americans.

Odie Stewart, of Niles, who is a member of the chapter, is inviting all Native American veterans of any war to march with the Rolling Thunder at the Niles Memorial Day parade, which begins at 10 a.m. at the corner of State and West Main streets.

The Rolling Thunder is a non-profit organization that works to educate the public on issues dealing with prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action. It will be the organization’s first time marching in the Niles parade.

Stewart is one-eighth Cherokee and served in the military during the Vietnam era, although he was never shipped to Vietnam.

“I didn’t see the carnage of Vietnam,” Stewart said. “But I appreciate what those folks did to help me be free today.”

Stewart believes that the Native Americans who have served in various wars don’t always get the credit they deserve.

“Over 40,000 Native Americans were involved in the Vietnam conflict,” he said. “More than 90 percent of them volunteered.”

Even though Stewart would like to see a good showing of Native American veterans, he wants to see veterans of all cultural backgrounds and wars to join him at the parade.

“The community needs to give support to all veterans,” he said. “When you think of these men and women of all cultures and backgrounds that go to war, they gave the right for all of us to be free.”

Some other members of the South Bend chapter will be attending the Rolling Thunder national Memorial Day rally in Washington D.C., which Stewart said should draw more than 200,000 members on motorcycles.

Veterans interested in marching with Rolling Thunder at the Niles Memorial Day Parade can contact Stewart at (269) 683-3855 or oneodiemon@yahoo.com.

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