Red Road Gathering honors fallen warriors at 17th annual event

Red Road Gathering honors fallen warriors at 17th annual event
During a week that South Dakota honored the Vietnam era veterans, USD's Red Road Gathering honored "fallen warriors" at the 17th annual Gathering at the Clay County 4-H building.

Inspired by this year's topic of forgiveness and the honoring of the Vietnam veteran, the complete roll of those killed in Afghanistan and Iraq during Iraqi Freedom through Sept. 12, 2006 and the entire roll of South Dakota Vietnam veterans killed in action (KIA) and Missing in Action (MIA) were read. In support of the nationally known Freedom Forum's Al Neuharth Media Center, the list of journalists killed while covering the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts was recited. A few Gathering participants asked for relatives from other countries who had been killed in Iraq or other combat sites to also be read.

About 3,000 names were included on the roll, which was recited on both Thursday and Friday. The Iraq and Afghanistan roll was recited two complete times while the journalist and Vietnam role was recited multiple times.

The reciting of the roll began with an honoring song by Vermillion's Wase Wapka (Red Earth Valley) and Cheyenne River Eagle Butte Wakiyan Maza (Iron Lightning) drum groups. A veteran's honoring song was then presented by Beatrice Vandell.

In front of USD ROTC's command tent which had been placed in front of the 4-H building, the recitation began with the reading and introduction of the list by retired Col. Gregory Huckabee who was one of several USD professors and staff members who read names. Volunteers throughout the day recited the names, one after another after another. Tears flowed as many persons stopped to listen to the list.

Recitation of the roll was made by World War II veterans, Iraqi veterans, parents of local service members who are currently serving in Iraq, law enforcement from both Vermillion Police Department and Clay County, disabled Vietnam veterans, active duty guardsmen including Recruiter SSG Boone, USD students, Vermillion Middle School students, and many family and friends who honored the "warriors."

Many local residents and persons attending the gathering stood by the person reciting the roll in support of the honoring. The list of names included persons with homes from far-off places such as Alaska, Panama, New York, California, and those closer to home, Yankton. Several recent USD student's names were among those read. The roll was finished with the recitation of South Dakota's Vietnam list by Clay County Veteran Service Officer Ray Hoffman.

During a presentation by five Vietnam veterans on Friday afternoon, Taps was played on a Native American flute by Michael Murphy while the roll of South Dakota's Vietnam fallen droned in the background with an honoring by Russ Husby, retired Navy Vietnam veteran. It is the hopes that all fallen warriors are not forgotten.

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