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Veterans pow wow light on attendees but heavy in heart

ALPINE, Calif. – Philip Parra spent Saturday Night watching a pow wow honoring military veterans. The former Marine took joy watching his two granddaughters dance in the first pow wow of its kind in the San Diego region, said his sister Vera Tucker.

“Then he went home and went to sleep and never woke up,” Tucker said. Parra died and presumably the images and sounds of his granddaughters dancing in ceremonial regalia was one if his last impressions.

The quaint pow wow Nov. 7 and 8 at the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians Reservation was lightly attended but organizers said it was an appropriate and inspiring tribute to Native American veterans. Many of those attended have relatives currently serving or had served.

“It was attended by the people that needed to be there,” Tucker said, an organizer and a Viejas tribal member.

About 35 veterans were honored at the Viejas Reservation sports center, each given an Eagle Feather engraved with the insignia of their respective branch of service, said Richard Van Dyke, an organizer and member of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska who is now living in the San Diego area.

“When I saw they were being honored in song and they were shaking hands, right there and then I said it was all worthwhile,” Van Dyke said. Van Dyke and Tucker were two of several organizers.

Tucker said she was first inspired to organize a pow wow for veterans when traveling to other reservations around the country that honored them. “I said look at these people and look how they honor their men and women. Why can’t we do something like this,” she said.

Five veterans in positions of tribal leadership spoke at the event. They included Hank Murphy, a Sycuan tribal member, Shirley Murphy, Lakota tribal member, Kenny Meza, of the Jamul Indian Village, Viejas tribal member Anthony Pico and Ron Christman, a spiritual leader for the Kumeyaay.

Future pow wows for San Diego area veterans are contingent upon funding and availability of venue, Van Dyke said.