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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


February 21, 2004 - Issue 107


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Ready to serve - Family with 2 children on way to Kuwait, younger siblings ready to join

by Jan-Mikael Patterson - The Navajo Times
credits: Edison Wauneka, foreground, and his wife , Cecilia, right, speak of their children, two of whom are on their way Kuwait, Monday in Oak Springs, Ariz. A wall they call the 'war wall' behind them is covered with portraits of their children. (Photo Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)

Edison Wauneka, foreground, and his wife , Cecilia, right, speak of their children, two of whom are on their way Kuwait, Monday in Oak Springs, Ariz. A wall they call the 'war wall' behind them is covered with portraits of their children. (Photo Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)OAK SPRINGS, Ariz. - Cecilia Wauneka wishes she could turn back time so her children would stay home. But that's not the case.

Cecilia and her husband, Edison Wauneka, have two children on the way to Kuwait.

Sgt. Jerrick Charles, 26, is in his sixth year of service with the U.S.

Marine Corps and Pvt. Michelle Wauneka, 19, completed boot camp for the Army last summer and is currently working with intelligence.

"She's a bright kid," Edison Wauneka said about Michelle. "She was a real good role model for the younger kids as far as their study habits."

Jerrick Charles will be in Kuwait for about three months and Michelle about three weeks.

"I really tried to talk Michelle out of it," Edison Wauneka said. "But it was both their choices. Even though it's scary at times but we have to support them.

"Sometimes I think they're safer than we are," he added.

He said they are safer because of the training and survival skills instilled in them through boot camp.

In response to a threat or terrorism they "would at least know what to do," Edison Wauneka said.

Now Everson Wauneka, 17, is set to go off to boot camp in July for the Army. Everson is a student at Window Rock High School and competes on the wrestling team.

Everson's younger brother, Braunson Wauneka, 14, and sister Lonna Wauneka, 16, are planning to enlist into the armed forces as well after they complete high school.

For the parents that's only a few years away.

Their eldest son, Jason Charles, was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps. He is currently employed with Pepsi Cola.

When the United States started bombing Baghdad in March 2003, Edison and Cecilia thought Jerrick was in Kuwait because that was what he had told them. His parents found out later that he was on the front lines.

"It was a surprise," Edison Wauneka said. "He told us that he did that on purpose. He just kept it to himself."

"Then we found him in the Albuquerque Journal guarding a base in Baghdad," Cecilia Wauneka said. The photo showed them that Jerrick had kept his location a secret from his parents.

"I told him, 'Why didn't you tell us you were in Baghdad?'" Cecilia recalled. "He told me, 'That's exactly why - because I knew you would get hysterical.'"

Jerrick Charles was with a company that was deployed when the bombing began. His outfit unloaded equipment and vehicles the United States used to search for Saddam Hussein.

Edison said when he came home for a furlough in October he told stories of being on the front line. He was home for three months and left for Kuwait and Baghdad on Feb. 3.

One of the troubling stories Cecilia Wauneka heard was of a friend.

"Three days into the war his company was ambushed," she said. A member of his outfit got lost as the rest of the company fled.

"He told his commander that he wanted to go back and find him but was told 'No,'" she said. "That bothered him. They knew where he was at, too. But they couldn't do anything about it. They found out later that he was tortured and then killed by the Iraqis.

"He said, 'If we could have went back we would have saved him,'" she said.

"When I picked him up and we were driving through Yuma (Ariz.), he talked about it then he got quiet for a long time," Cecilia Wauneka said.

"I just changed the subject and talked about things going on at home and he started talking again after a while."

Other stories had to do with skills he learned on the reservation.

"They butchered one of Saddam's llamas," Cecilia Wauneka said with a smile. "They tired him out. I guess one the guys he was with had a shovel, another one had an ax and he was the one who chased it. They tired out the llama.

"They butchered it like a sheep. He was the expert in butchering," she giggled.

"We've always taught the children to set goals for themselves," she added. "Maybe that's why it was hard to talk them out of going."

"When I knew Michelle was going I told the recruiter 'Can I enlist too?'" Edison Wauneka laughed. "He said, 'No, you're too old.'

"I really think that's why my son re-enlisted," he added. "Because he knew that she was going to over there. They serve different branches but at least they'll be in the same place together.

"I think we need to be patriotic for our country and our kids," Edison Wauneka said. "Native Americans have always been warriors. It's in their blood. All we can do is pray and support them because that's the best we can do for them."

Edison Wauneka said he disagrees with President Bush's administration. In the old days when warriors fought, the leader led his band in battle.

"Instead of leading they're in the back telling them what to do," he said.

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