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Ellsworth hosts event to thank Native American veterans

Staff Sgt. Kyle Haun, 28th Munitions Squadron conventional maintenance technician, explains the characteristics of the many munitions that B-1 aircrews can employ to a group of Native American veterans during an event at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Nov. 8, 2013. During the event, visitors toured a number of base facilities, watched demonstrations, gathered for a meal and warrior cross talk. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anania Tekurio/Released)

Staff Sgt. Kyle Haun, 28th Munitions Squadron conventional maintenance technician, explains the characteristics of the many munitions that B-1 aircrews can employ to a group of Native American veterans during an event at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Nov. 8, 2013. During the event, visitors toured a number of base facilities, watched demonstrations, gathered for a meal and warrior cross talk. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anania Tekurio/Released)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Days prior to the parades, speeches and other activities done to recognize those who have served in the military, Ellsworth hosted a special event for veterans from six area tribal nations designed to personally thank them for their service.

More than just a way of thanking those who served, the purpose of the event Nov. 8 was to share the warrior spirit shared by all those who have served and to reaffirm the indebtedness owed to those who helped secure our nation's freedoms.

"We meet at Ellsworth to celebrate the warrior ethos that has always been present within the military," said Col. Kevin Kennedy, 28th Bomb Wing commander, during the luncheon at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum as part of the event. "We're here to recognize those warriors that have secured the blessings of freedom we all enjoy."

During the day, guests and their families toured several facilities, watched demonstrations by the 28th Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog section and the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, and had the opportunity to get up close to a B-1 bomber.

"It's amazing to see this massive bomber and to be standing right next to it," said Ron Eagle Chasing, a Lakota and Vietnam veteran who served in the U.S. Army as a helicopter door gunner. "I've seen them flying around the base and always wanted to see them up close."

Aviators from the 34th Bomb Squadron teamed up with operators from the 432nd Attack Squadron to provide an overview of the mission and capabilities of the base's B-1 fleet and the MQ-9 Reaper ground control stations at Ellsworth. In addition, Airmen from the 28th Munitions Squadron also explained the vast array of munitions the bomber can employ while maintenance professionals from the 28th Maintenance Group provided a better understanding of the work they do to keep the long range bombers operational.

Tech. Sgt. Robert Bartlett, 28th Medical Support Squadron outpatient records NCO in charge and member of the Sioux tribe, said it was an honor to talk to those he shares common ancestry with about the mission of the 28th Medical Group.

"Words can't express the way I feel about the men and women who paved the way for me and countless others who serve today," said Bartlett. "Events like this are important because they let those who served know they made a difference."

Everyone participating in the event also had the opportunity to share their stories with each as part of the luncheon. This, according to the event planners, was a tremendous bonus.

"To hear what they endured and all they have done to preserve our freedom was just amazing," said Lt. Col. Joseph Kramer, 28th Operations Support Squadron assistant director of operations and event planner. "All Airmen understand that we stand on the shoulders of those that came before us."

As the day came to a close, handshakes and "thank yous" were exchanged, with guests and hosts both lauding each other for the day.

"I feel honored to have been a part of this," said Bob Pretty Boy, U. S. Army veteran and Sioux tribe member. "It was a great time and I learned a lot. I am grateful for those continuing to serve today."





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