Honoring returning troops
Pictures of young people serving in Iraq adorn a wall of the Senior Center at Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation, where the community gathered Wednesday to pay tribute to three returning soldiers. Legionnaires, tribal leaders — many of them veterans — and relatives of the returning soldiers talked about the reservation's long commitment to the military. "We have 267 people at Rocky Boy who have served in the military," said Robert "Sonny" Belcourt, American Legion Post 67 commander. "And we have many fallen veterans." Luanne Belcourt, president of the auxiliary, said her group is helping military personel and the families they left behind, especially the six women, all of whom have served in Iraq. "We send letters to them, and we do what we can to Help," she said. Drums rolled and chants were sung as the three returning soldiers were called to the front. Native prayers were recited in English and Cree. Legion leaders and Tribal council members took turns praising the young people. Honored at the ceremony were Fi rs t Lt . Chauncey Parker, who is returning from his second tour; Spc. Michelle Parker ; and Spc. Ashley Parisian. Tribal leaders were especially proud of Chauncey Parker, who is believed to be the first person from Rocky Boy to become a commissioned officer. There is a long tradition of military service in his family. Both of his grandfathers were in the service. "His great -grandmother received a gold star for having so many relatives in the service," said Luanne Belcourt. While speakers talked glowingly of their service, the three were modest about their work. They said they missed families and friends but went about their duty the best they could. "We just performed our duty as best we could," said Chauncey Parker. All of them said they were glad to see family and friends upon their return from their yearlong hitch. "It was amazing. It was exciting, very exciting," said Michelle Parker. "We went from being very hot in Iraq to very cold here." "It was great being back home wi th my son," said Parisian. "I missed him." Chauncey Parker got a round of applause as he donated a Chippewa Cree flag that had flown over Camp Liberty to the legion. It will be displayed at the Senior Center.