I would like to THANK SKY BALL for allowing me to speak for ALL Native Americans and our unique service to our country.  Also I would like to thank the supporters for bringing us to this event.  It is an honor to be here amongst so many great Warriors in Uniform and Warriors that have served our Great Nation.

My name is Sgt. Dennis Coochyouma.  I am a member of the Hopi Tribe and reside on the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona.  This community is the Pima Nation and home of one famous Native American Marine – Ira Hamilton Hayes – One of five Marines and one sailor that helped raise the American Flag on Iwo Jima during World War II.

Ira Hayes, a full blooded Pima Indian, was born on the Pima Reservation.  After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he felt it his Warrior duty to serve.  Ira Hayes went to a co-worker and said in his language, “VANDO HEE” “I am going…they need me.”  His family and village accepted his decision.  Within a few days, Ira Hayes left for Marine Corps boot camp.

On February 19, 1945, a large contingent of Marines landed on the island, facing an equally substantial army of Japanese defenders.  One of the bloodiest, fiercest four days of combat ensued.

On February 23, 1945, five Marines and one Navy Corpsman raised the American Flag on Mount Suribachi.  A photograph was taken of the Flag raising and this event changed his life forever.

Our Native American tradition is best exemplified by the following qualities said to be inherent to most if not all Native Americans tribes: strength, honor, pride, devotion, and wisdom.  Therefore, the military is an opportunity for us to fulfill our Warrior duties, which is to protect our families, preserve our culture and traditions.  Tribal members returning as Warriors are respected and honored members in our native society.

I have served in the United States Marine Corps.  I was an aerial gunner on a UH-1E Huey “Gunship” in Vietnam.  I have a few brother Marines with me this evening: Marines of Marine Observation Squadron 6 – Maj. Charles Noble, veteran of the Korean War and those I served with in Vietnam Cpl. Ed “Moose” Powell, Sgt. Horace “Howie” Whitaker, and Cpl. Rick Ault.  I am proud to call them my Warrior Brothers.  A special guest of mine is Maj. Urban Giff, member of the Pima Tribe, Retired Marine, Vietnam veteran, and current Commander of Ira H. Hayes American Legion Post 84 located on the Gila River Indian Community.

The United States Marine Corps celebrated its aviation centennial this year.  On May 22, 1912, First Lieutenant Alfred A. Cunningham became the first Marine Aviator.  A handful of daring Marines and primitive aircraft started the Marine Aviation tradition, which has grown to a force that has met the test of combat for the last 100 years. 

I would like to introduce to you one of the famous and decorated Marine Corps Squadrons in Marine Aviation History…MY SQUADRON   VMO-6.

VMO-6 history video