Tribal Government & News

Honoring those who served

Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs Tribal Veteran Coordinator Jon Taylor speaks during the Tribe’s annual Memorial Day observance held at the West Valley Veterans Memorial on the Tribal campus on Monday, May 29. Taylor was one of two guest speakers at the event. (Photos by Michelle Alaimo)


By Danielle Harrison

Smoke Signals assistant editor/staff writer

The Memorial Day ceremony returned to Grand Ronde’s West Valley Veterans Memorial for the 20th time on Monday, May 29, and included the addition of eight names to the four black granite pillars that represent the major branches of the U.S. military.

The eight who were honored during the ceremony included longtime Tribal employee Albert J. “Joe” Martineau, an Air Force veteran who walked on Feb. 1 at the age of 63. He was from the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa of Minnesota and worked for the Tribe as an alcohol and addictions counselor.

Martineau’s name was etched on the Air Force pillar, along with the names of Jack Bailey and Jefferie J. Tucker.

Approximately 100 people attended the 1 p.m. ceremony, held under sunny skies with a light breeze. A boxed lunch, served to attendees at the Tribal Community Center by Veterans Royalty, preceded the event. 

Veterans Special Event Board member Molly Leno served as the master of ceremonies.

“Thank you for joining us today to honor all of our veterans,” she said.

Leno also asked the crowd to observe a moment of silence for late Tribal Elder Steve Bobb Sr., longtime event organizer and Vietnam War-era Marine Corps veteran who walked on in August 2022. He also designed the memorial, which features a man and woman dressed in traditional Native clothing standing side by side while reaching for the sky.

Tribal members Anthony Quenelle and Jordan Mercier drummed and sang a memorial song.

The Grand Ronde Honor Guard posted the colors and Tribal Council member Michael Cherry provided an invocation after welcoming people to the event.

“I wanted to make sure to be here to honor all of our veterans and everyone who has served,” Cherry said. “We know that our ancestors are with us today. … It’s very special and I just want to say thank you for everyone being here today and taking the time to be in community.”

Other Tribal Council members in attendance were Vice Chair Chris Mercier, Denise Harvey, Brenda Tuomi, Secretary Michael Langley and Lisa Leno. Past Tribal Council chair and Marine Corps veteran Reyn Leno also attended.

After invocation, Tribal member JC Rogers sang the national anthem as she has for the past six events. After she sang, Grand Ronde and Veterans Royalty members performed “The Lord’s Prayer.”

The keynote speakers were Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs Tribal Veteran Coordinator Jon R. Taylor and Army veteran Albert Moody.

“I am honored to serve and advocate for Oregon's Tribal members who served this country, and returned home to their families and communities,” Taylor said. “On Memorial Day, it is a time to remember those who did not return home. We stop to honor and pay respects to those who gave their lives to the service of this country, in the service of freedom, in the service of a more peaceful world. We remember their sacrifice, their valor and their grace. For while we stand amid these beautiful granite monuments, we must never forget that each of the names forever etched represents a precious life: A son, daughter, father, mother, spouse, brother, sister and a friend.”

Taylor also acknowledged that Native Americans have participated with distinction in the U.S. military for more than 200 years.

“Currently, there are over 150,000 Native American military veterans and it is well-recognized that historically, Native Americans have the highest record of service compared to any other group,” Taylor said. “The service of these men and women has been exemplified by strength, honor and wisdom. These are the qualities we honor today, but we must never forget the true cost of war. The price is paid with the lives of our heroes.”

Moody talked about the tradition of military service in his family. His father had a 32-year career in the Army. Moody served 22 years in the Army, but his brother never made it home from Vietnam.

“I ended up graduating from R.A. Long High School in Longview, Washington, and joined the Army at 17,” he said. “I wanted to be a paratrooper and a medic.”

After completing his training, Moody was shipped off to Vietnam, where he spent six months as a combat medic. Afterward, he transferred to military assistance command, where he worked with a medical team doing public relations work by providing health care for local villagers.

Moody was about to retire when the first Gulf War started in January 1991. He continued his service, retiring later that year.

“So, immediately after leaving the Army, I joined Doctors Without Borders,” he said. “I'm sure most of you have heard of them. We traveled all over the world providing medical support for certain individuals and certain countries. I went to Bosnia two times, to Columbia for earthquake relief and to provide medical care. … That was my career, but it didn't stop there for me. I continue to volunteer. Veterans have this great responsibility to tell our stories, not just to each other, but to others.”

After Moody and Taylor spoke, Molly Leno read aloud the names being added to the memorial. The four pillars at the West Valley Veterans Memorial feature the names of Tribal and community members from Grand Ronde, Willamina and Sheridan who served in the four major branches of the military – Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

The addition of eight names this year increased the number of those honored on all four pillars to 2,382. Two additional pillars are in progress because the ones containing names of Army and Navy veterans are reaching capacity.

Other names added included Grand Ronde Tribal member Jerald W. Tyler on the Navy pillar, Allan Halverson, Benjamin Lee Rogers and Ronney Lee Rogers on the Army pillar and Billy J. Rogers on the Marine Corps pillar.

This was the 20th Memorial Day celebration held at the West Valley Veterans Memorial, which was dedicated in May 2003, because the 2020 event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.