Twenty five years in the making, a new monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., has been unveiled: the National Native American Veterans Memorial.
"It's an article of faith in Indian country that Native Americans serve at a greater rate than basically any other group," said Kevin Gover, the director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian and a citizen of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. He said the steel ring sculpture over a carved stone drum, in a wooded area near the museum's entrance, will become hallowed ground.
Native veterans are hoping to sanctify the site whenever it becomes safe to travel. "When people bring their memories and bring their prayers to a place, they make it sacred," he said. "We wish for this to be a sacred place, not just for Native Americas, but for all Americans."
"My ancestors were warriors. Rain-in-the-Face who fought in the Battle of the Little Bighorn or Greasy Grass that they called it," says Marcella LeBeau, a 101 year old former Army nurse. "My father was a Spanish American war veteran. My brother, oldest brother was a veteran. All down the line."
LeBeau is a citizen of the Two Kettle Band, Cheyenne River Sioux. She recalls hearing a constant barrage of German "buzz bombs" during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, while she worked as a surgical nurse at the 25th General Hospital in Liege, Belgium, just miles from the front.
"To me it was a great honor," she said - and one recognized by her tribe when she returned home to South Dakota. With the memorial, she's hoping recognition of Native service will be nationwide.