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Big Cypress salutes veterans

BIG CYPRESS — Veterans Day celebrations took place at the Herman L. Osceola Gymnasium on Nov. 9 in Big Cypress.

The program was led by Sally Tommie, who was the master of ceremonies, and began with an invocation by Jonah Cypress.

Ahfachkee students Tahnia Billie and Thelma Tigertail delivered the Pledge of Allegiance followed by a rendition of “God Bless USA” by sophomore Aujua Williams.

With Sally Tommie and Big Cypress Board Rep. Joe Frank at his side, World War II veteran Richard Reynolds is honored with a specially made blanket during the Veterans Day celebration in Big Cypress on Nov. 9. (Photo Analicia Austin)

Miss Florida Seminole Durante Blais-Billie told the audience: “I have my right to stand here and speak to you all, thanks to our veterans, with them everything is possible.

Our veterans are everyday men and women who heard the call of duty and swore to answer it; they made oaths to our people, our country, to our rights, and to our freedom.”

After the opening remarks, special guest speaker Anile Adair Locust (Cherokee), of Oklahoma, said she was proud to be here as a “veteran among veterans.”

Seminole veteran Stephen Bowers, who served in the Vietnam War with the U.S. Army, gives a speech on Nov. 9 during the Big Cypress Veterans Day event at the Herman L. Osceola Gymnasium. Listening in the background are, from left, Sally Tommie, Hollywood Board Rep. Gordon Wareham, Moses Jumper Jr. and Pastor L.W. Howard. (Photo Analicia Austin)

“There’s a certain thing called motivation that provides the drive, and ambition, enthusiasm and everything that builds into your inner spirit, believe me a veteran has every bit of that,” said Locust, who served in the U.S. Air Force.

The ceremony paid tribute to fallen warrior Johnny Osceola, who served in the U.S. Army from 1976-80. He was stationed in California and Germany during his time in service.

Osceola’s family was presented with a plaque made in his honor.

The family of Johnny Osceola, a veteran of the U.S. Army, is honored at the Veterans Day celebration alongside Big Cypress Board Rep. Joe Frank, President Mitchell Cypress and Big Cypress Councilman David Cypress as Sally Tommie reads the honor. (Photo Analicia Austin)
U.S. Air Force veteran Anile Adair Locust (Cherokee) addresses the audience in Big Cypress. (Photo Analicia Austin)

“His exemplary leadership as a member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and the selfless commitment, and sacrifice to the protection of our freedom, his service and sacrifice will never be forgotten,” Tommie said.

Osceola passed away of cancer and is survived by his wife, mother, siblings, his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Aujua Williams singing “God Bless the USA” during the Veterans Day celebration in Big Cypress. (Photo Analicia Austin)

The recognition of veterans continued with World War II veteran Richard Reynolds, 94, who served in the U.S. Marines.

He was presented with a blanket made by the Tribe to thank him for his services.

The celebration concluded with guests thanking the veterans on a reception line and a prayer followed by a luncheon.

Tahnia Billie and Thelma Tigertail deliver the Pledge of Allegiance during the Veterans Day celebration in Big Cypress. (Photo Analicia Austin)
Big Cypress Councilman David Cypress speaks to the audience at the Big Cypress Veterans Day event as his brother, President Mitchell Cypress, listens. (Photo Analicia Austin)
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