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Mashantuckets honor active duty military and veterans

The Day - 11/12/2023

Nov. 11—MASHANTUCKET — One drum surrounded by nine singers set the tone for a Veterans Day Celebration at Foxwoods Casino meant to honor Native Americans and those with whom they've served for centuries.

The beat of the drum was grounded against the undulating sound of the Mashantucket-based Yootay Singers as they filled the Great Cedar Concourse with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation's anthem.

Veterans Day Parade marshal Pedro Johnson, a member of the Mashantucket Pequot Elders Council and retired member of the Tribal Council, said the anthemic Flag Song is about warriors coming home in victory.

When the group continued singing to the increasingly frenetic beat of the drums, it was to tell the story of the tribe's victories and its veterans.

Yootay Singers member Phillip Thomas of Mashantucket said one of the songs for veterans was specific to the Korean War, while another used traditional words to tell the story of warriors bringing back feathers of the sacred Eagle.

"It definitely means a lot to us to be able to honor our own and honor the country at the same time," Thomas said.

Johnson, from his seat in the electric cart where he had led the parade of veterans, tribal members and Girl Scouts down the concourse, said he served in the U.S. Air Force as part of the air police from 1961-65.

He said the day is about honoring veterans past and present.

"Those that came before me, I thank them also for giving me the opportunity to be able to serve," he said.

He recalled his late uncle, William Johnson, who was a guard at the trials in Nuremberg, Germany, for those accused of Nazi war crimes after World War II.

"Our family has been well represented," he said.

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Chairman Rodney Butler told The Day Native Americans have fought "in some way, shape or form" alongside non-Native Americans in every major military conflict for more than 200 years.

"And Pequots in particular have been serving since King Philip's War in the 1670s," he said.

In one of the bloodiest conflicts in U.S. history, the English militia found allies in the Mohegans and Pequots in the fight against numerous tribes led by Wampanoag sachem Metacomet.

At the ceremony following the parade Butler from the podium thanked invited guests from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 594 in Norwich.

"We are deeply honored to have you with us here this morning," he said. "We thank you for your sacrifices both at home and abroad and for your unwavering commitment to defending our nation and upholding the values we hold dear."

The Mashantucket Pequot Honor Guard was represented by U.S. Marine Corps veteran and recently-elected Elders Council Vice Chairman Herbie Boyd, U.S. Army Veteran Darryl Scott and U.S. Air Force veteran Timothy Walker.

"To our Mashantucket Pequot Honor Guard and other Mashantucket Pequot veterans who have served our country and continue to sacrifice for the perseverance of our beautiful land, history and culture, we honor you as well for your steadfast commitment," Butler said.

The day's events also included an afternoon powwow at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum. Butler said the event, which celebrated the tribe's culture and its veterans, included food vendors, artisans "and a whole lot of dancing and singing."

e.regan@theday.com

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