Reno-Sparks Indian Colony warriors memorialized in tribal cemetery

The names of 96 deceased Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Native Veterans were unveiled on Memorial Day in the tribe’s cemetery.(Photo: Stacey Montooth)

Unveiling of new Reno-Sparks Indian Colony veterans memorial well-received

News Release

Reno-Sparks Indian Colony

The names of the 96 deceased Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Native warriors were unveiled on Memorial Day in the Hungry Valley Cemetery.

Displayed on a custom-constructed, eight-foot-high, adobe wall, the memorial includes eternal recognition for American Indian soldiers who served in the armed forces which now can be seen by all visitors to the cemetery. 

“The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Veterans Memorial has been in the works for some time now,” Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Chairman Arlan D. Melendez told the crowd of about 100. “Our Native American soldiers, all soldiers, made a great sacrifice, so today is a day to stop, reflect, and remember all veterans, and particularly, those soldiers who gave the ultimate price to protect our freedom.”

In addition to the wall of names, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Veterans Memorial entrance opens with a Fallen Soldier Display statue.  

Pictured: Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Veteran Beatrice Thayer looks at a plaque commemorating her family’s military experience. Thayer is a WWII and Korean War Veteran, while her relatives, Max, William and Michael Coffey all served, too.
Pictured: Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Veteran Beatrice Thayer looks at a plaque commemorating her family’s military experience. Thayer is a WWII and Korean War Veteran, while her relatives, Max, William and Michael Coffey all served, too.(Photo: Stacey Montooth)

According to the official website of the U.S. Marines, the helmet and identification tags signals the fallen solider. The inverted rifle with bayonet signals a time for prayer to pay tribute to the comrade. The combat boots represent the final march of the last battle. The helmet reminds us that the soldier has taken part in his final jump.

Chairman Melendez explained that what has become a federal holiday for honoring people who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces, was once call Decoration Day.

“It began as a memorial to Civil War soldiers who had died in the war, both Union and Confederate,” Chairman Melendez said. “Now we call it Memorial Day, and this holiday has special meaning and a tremendous presence in our community.”

The day began at the Mountain View Cemetery in west Reno where six members of the Colony rest. Currently, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony has 46 living veterans and four members on active duty. In Hungry Valley, six Native veterans are buried, and on Saturday, June 1, World War II veteran, Cpl. Thomas Evan McGinty will be laid to rest.

“Native Americans have served and died for the U.S., from the beginning, with almost 3,600 American Indians who served in the Union Army during the Civil War,” Chairman Melendez said. “Even though American Indians were not considered U.S. citizens when World War I broke out, 12,000 of them volunteered to serve the county in the Great War, including 14 women who joined the Army Nurse Corps.”

He went on to explain that by the end of the second World War, 44,5000 Native Americans had taken up arms for the country, or about one-third of all able-bodied Indian men of service age.

As the holiday calls for, much of the day’s focusing was on those who gave the ultimate price for our freedom, specifically veterans who died during battle.

“John (Ira) Aleck was one of those who went to war in Vietnam. He lost his life in combat and he was only 22-years-old,” Chairman Melendez said. “His entire family and generations to come have been affected by his loss.” 

In fact, of the 58,320 soldiers who died during the Vietnam Conflict, Aleck is one of 232 Native warriors who lost their lives during the war.

“Let us remember their families who were wounded in spirit, when they heard the sad news that their loved one had died defending this country,” Chairman Melendez said. “Maybe peace will come someday, but people’s hearts aren’t right, yet, so we will always have soldiers going into the military.”

At both cemeteries, the observances concluded with the playing of Taps.

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