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Patriotic day in Brighton

BRIGHTON — Veterans Day was commemorated in Brighton Nov. 7 at the 32nd Seminole Veterans Celebration and Recognition where Tribal and non-Tribal veterans were honored for their service and sacrifices.

The patriotic day began with the Seminole color guard, which presented the Seminole Tribe of Florida, American, MIA/POW and Florida flags.

Students from Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School then recited the Pledge of Allegiance in Creek and English.

Seminole veterans, from right, Sallie Josh, Paul Bowers Sr. and Curtis Motlow accept greetings from fellow veterans at the Brighton Veterans Day celebration on Nov. 7 at the Florida Seminole Veterans Building in Brighton. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

President Mitchell Cypress described how the annual Veterans Day event came to fruition when he, Roy Nash Osceola and Jacob Osceola realized they wanted to do something to honor other Tribal members for serving the country.

The men decided to have a barbeque and pay tribute to veterans. Word spread, veterans from other reservations attended and over the years the event grew too large to be held in the Big Cypress field office.

Eventually it was moved to the Brighton Veterans Building.

Seminole veteran Stanlo Johns places his hand over his heart during the opening ceremony of the Brighton Veterans Day event on Nov. 7 at the Florida Seminole Veterans Building. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

During the ceremony, two PECS eighth grade students, CeCe Thomas and Wyatt Thornton read their essays about Veterans Day.

“Each year we set aside a day to honor those who gave,” Thomas read. “They all gave something and some gave everything so that we might live in a country that is free.”

“A soldier displays courage and bravery by trudging through monstrous conditions and back again,” Thornton read. “All the while, they still fight for the citizens of this country without uttering a word of protest. The world would not be safe without such heroes.”

PECS student CeCe Thomas reads an essay she wrote for Veterans Day at the Brighton celebration on Nov. 7. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

Miss Florida Seminole and Miss Indian World also addressed the crowd.

“Our veterans who fight for what they believe in embody the pride of not only us standing here today, but our ancestors and our future generations to come,” said Miss Florida Seminole Durante Blais-Billie. “Seminole veterans carry the spirit of courage and unselfish sacrifices from our ancestors. Our Tribe has come far from the persecution we faced during the Seminole Wars, thanks to the men and women who devoted everything to a cause beyond themselves and inspire each of our people to do the same.”

“The quality of this life has been defended time and time again by the sacrifices and bravery of veterans,” said Miss Indian World Cheyenne Kippenberger. “When one is willing to put their life on the line to protect something larger than themselves, it shows the character of a true warrior. You are loved and appreciated every day.”

Seminole U.S. Army veteran Joe Osceola Jr. shakes the hand of World War II veteran Richard Reynolds at the Brighton Veterans Day event. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

When guest speaker and U.S. Navy veteran Mike Trim took the podium, he began with a roll call of veterans in the Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard.

Those who served in each branch shouted out their presence.

“There is one language we can all speak as veterans,” said Trim, a journalist and anchor on WPTV in West Palm Beach. “Where did you serve? How did you deal with it when you came back? Veterans Day honors that. The military is separate from civilian life; it’s like two different universes. But you can sit in a room with anyone in the world and connect on a veteran level.”

Trim served during peacetime from 1997 to 2001 on the guided missile destroyer USS McFaul DDG 74 as an information system technician second class petty officer.

During his years of service, he went to the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas and “everywhere in between.”

U.S. Army retired Major General Wayne Jackson salutes as PECS students say the pledge of allegiance in English and Creek. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

Two special presentations were made to Paul Bowers Sr. and Billie Micco for their service in the Marine Corps and U.S. Army.

Another special presentation, this one a surprise, was given to former Brighton Councilman Andrew J. Bowers Jr., who also served as emcee during the Veterans Day celebration.

“We want to recognize someone who always says he doesn’t want to be recognized, to let someone else get it,” said Stephen Bowers, U.S. Army veteran. “During his years as Councilman he [Andrew J. Bowers Jr.] helped get this building done, got the veterans service officer program funded, was integral in getting Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School started and got the Red Barn recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. For all of his achievements and milestones, we had to do it this way because he wouldn’t have wanted it.”

Bowers’ family was on hand to celebrate his work and listen to him accept the honor.

He spoke about volunteering for the military in 1968 when he and Stephen Bowers were both at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas.

Seminole veterans Andrew J. Bowers Jr., center, who received a special recognition plaque, and Stephen Bowers are joined by Cheyenne Kippenberger, the Seminole Tribe’s first-ever Miss Indian World, and current Miss Florida Seminole Durante Blais-Billie at the Brighton Veterans Day event. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

Bowers served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam from 1968-1972.

“No one asked me to go into this thing,” he said. “We saw a sign that said ‘Uncle Sam just takes the best, do you qualify?’ So we gave it a shot. The man sent us to do a job, we did it and we came home. We didn’t expect fireworks. But 58,000 didn’t make it home. They are who we should be honoring today.”

With that, a roll call of Seminole veterans was read.

Those in attendance lined up to shake the hands of other veterans and community members.

“Taps” was played to honor the veterans and signal the end of the ceremony.

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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