As we near Veterans' Day, we remember with thanks the men and women who have served in our country's military as well as those who are currently in the armed forces. This year my thoughts go especially to our warriors who are overseas. I think many times every day of my son-in-law and his fellow soldiers who are in Afghanistan.

My daughter and her husband were treated with special consideration and kindness when they stayed at the Fortune Bay Casino a year or so ago. He felt so honored by the hotel staff, who thanked him and told him that was one way Bois Forte shows appreciation for veterans.

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We Bois Forte Ojibwe, as do all Native bands, are aware of and grateful to those who guard and sacrifice for our lives and freedom. Just as the Fortune Bay staff did, we acknowledge and show our respect and thanks as often as we can. Another example of this can be seen at powwows, where the veterans and soldiers are recognized and thanked during the Grand Entry ceremonies, right after the invocation. A veterans' song is played in their honor, and the veterans and soldiers dance. We dance behind them; we dance for our warriors.

When students in one of my classes were planning to attend a local powwow, their first, I told them a little about what to expect and the appropriate powwow etiquette, particularly during the Grand Entry. The powwow would begin with veterans carrying in flags: the American flag, the Eagle Staff, perhaps the Canadian flag and the POW flag. Everyone physically able to would stand as the flags were carried in and as the dancers entered the circle; they would remain standing for the invocation and the veterans' song. It is a big deal to be a veteran, I told them; veterans are held in very high esteem and are always honored by all at the powwow. We indicate that esteem often and publicly.

One student wondered why this is (he asked his question respectfully). The reasons are rooted in Native worldview, the intertwined spiritual and cultural aspects of living a life of honor. In the ways of Bemaadiziiwin, the good life, the most highly regarded and beloved people are those who serve and give of themselves to others. Our veterans, and those who are currently in the armed forces, follow the warrior tradition as living examples of selfless protectors of our people and land.

American Indians have served in our country's military service with the highest percentage of any racial or ethnic group. During World War I, the U.S. Census recorded a Native population of fewer than 300,000, yet more than 12,000 served in the U.S. armed forces. During World War II, the Native population was slightly under 350,000 -- of these, more than 44,000 served. More than 42,000 American Indians served in the Vietnam War; 90 percent were volunteers. American Indians, both men and women, have served in the Korean War, in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, in Afghanistan and wherever they have been called to serve, in peacetime and war. And they continue to serve today.

We are the first Americans; America is our country. Our warriors, in their journey through life, truly learn what it takes to develop the courage, humility and generosity of spirit that create a warrior who will serve our country and people long after his or her time in the armed forces.

That is the reason why at powwows we stand for veterans, and dance behind them during their song. We welcome them home and remember the warriors who did not return. What they have done for us and are willing to do is so much more than we can ever possibly repay, but we begin with our manifestation of respect, gratitude and love.

My son-in-law is one of our American warriors: He is a humble, brave and generous young man on his second tour of duty overseas with the Army, this time in Afghanistan. My daughter, their young kids and the rest of us pray for him every day. And every day brings us one day closer to when we can welcome him, too, home.

Monthly columnist Linda LeGarde Grover is a UMD professor of American Indian Studies, and a member of the Bois Forte Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. E-mail lgrover@d.umn.edu.