Veterans Day is personal for members of the Tulalip Tribes
By Dan Aznoff | Last Updated November 19, 2019 | https://lynnwoodtimes.com/
The American Flag does not just fly outside the offices of the Tulalip Tribes on national holidays.
Old Glory has special meaning to the veterans who have proven their allegiance to defend the nation against foreign enemies as members of the military. The flag also symbolizes a commitment by members of the tribe to the next generation of Americans.
Rocky Renencker believes part of his military service is an obligation to take an active role in sharing the responsibility of serving in the military as a Native American with students at every grade level.
“The veteran’s unit of the (Tulalip) tribes pays regular visits to local schools where we are able to share our commitment with young people so they understand the duty of serving our nation while we maintain the traditions of our proud people,” said Renencker.
The Army vet said members of his unit have been proud to be part of the annual visits to local schools on Veterans Day as well as other national holidays. He said Tulalip veterans received hand-written letters from third graders after an assembly at Quil Ceda Elementary School in Tulalip.
The veterans were humbled by the experience, according to one of the visitors who shook hands and shared the love from the young people.
Renencker said Veterans Day often includes lunch with students at the local high school as well as participation in parades as far away as Auburn.
The Army vet said it is his personal mission to honor veterans who saw action in Vietnam because of the poor treatment when they returned from deployment in Southeast Asia. The Tulalip veteran said the tribe normally plans events that honor veterans throughout the holiday weekend, not just on the Monday holiday each year.
Attendance at the Tulalip Cultural Museum, said Renencker, peaks each year during the Veterans Day observance. He advises visitors to plan on spending 2-3 hours to take in all the exhibits and observe (or participate) in a Talking Circle.
The museum was designed to honor all veterans of Native American heritage, not just members of the Tulalip Tribes. The galleries are free and open to the public.
A woman’s group sponsored by the tribes was formed three years ago to honor veterans throughout the year. Part of that program includes a women’s group of Blue Star mothers who gather to quilt blankets for veterans who have returned to live in Tulalip.
The women, he said, hope to complete 10-12 blankets each year until all 101 veterans have a customized blanket to honor their service.
“It’s an amazing program that the veterans really appreciate,” said Renencker. “The women are making them as fast as they can. Unfortunately, one of the vets passed away before he could receive his blanket.”
Coordinating Veterans Day activities is only part of Renencker’s duties. Most of his time is spent making sure every veteran in the Tulalip Tribes gets all of the benefits they are entitled to receive.
He also coordinates transportation to health care facilities, provides referrals to the veterans network, arranges Color Guards for the funerals of veterans, accesses assistance to families of deceased veterans and a Color Guard for public events and ceremonies on the Tulalip Reservation. “We try to get the veterans out as much as possible,” Renencker said, to be part of the community and contributing members of their own family.”