Char-Koosta News

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Arlee Esyapqeni recognizes military veterans on the 4th of July

By B.L. Azure
Char-Koosta News

Army National Guard Specialist Lloyd presents Denise Ducharme with an American flag in remembrance of her brother Frank J. Ducharme. His other sister Carrie Irvine looks on. (B.L. Azure photo) Army National Guard Specialist Lloyd presents Denise Banguis with an American flag in remembrance of her brother Frank J. Ducharme. His other sister Carrie Irvine looks on. (B.L. Azure photo)

ARLEE — The annual Arlee Powwow Celebration has a new old name, it is now the Arlee Esyapqeni, the Salish word for celebration. Although the name is new to the event, it is an old word that the organizers feel better fits the celebratory annual gathering of the Salish and Pend d’Oreille people in the Jocko Valley.

This year the 4th of July came near midweek and that resulted in a six-day marathon of a celebration. It annually draws folks from throughout the state, Northwest and Canada. And they were on hand again this year.

CSKT Tribal Council Chairman Vernon Finley addresses the Esyapqeni audience about the sacrifice made by Frank Jerard Ducharme made for America. Ducharme’s sister Carrie Banguis is on the right. He went missing in action in Korea in 1951 and his dog tags and potential remains were recently found. (B.L. Azure photo) CSKT Tribal Council Chairman Vernon Finley addresses the Esyapqeni audience about the sacrifice made by Frank Jerard Ducharme made for America. Ducharme’s sister Carrie Banguis is on the right. He went missing in action in Korea in 1951 and his dog tags and potential remains were recently found. (B.L. Azure photo)

This year at the veterans’ honoring recognition was conveyed to those who served during the Korean War. In particular one Korean War veteran, Army Corporal Frank Jerard Ducharme was singled out.

The Army corporal — a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes — went Missing in Action in the Korean War, May 16, 1951 on the first day of the Communist forces Spring Offensive — he was 19 years old.

Ducharme, was one of 800 soldiers, on a forward outpost established well ahead of the defensive line of other allied forces. It was meant to draw out and engage the enemy and that it did, they were the first to engage the enemy.

Allen Pierre followed by the Missoula-Hamilton Marine Honor Guard leads the Snake Dance procession into the dance arbor at the Arlee Esyapqeni on the 4th of July. (B.L. Azure photo) Allen Pierre followed by the Missoula-Hamilton Marine Honor Guard leads the Snake Dance procession into the dance arbor at the Arlee Esyapqeni on the 4th of July. (B.L. Azure photo)

To the north them awaited more that 100,000 Communist forces. The evening of May 16, a large portion of the Communist forces began to probe Task Force Zebra’s outposts. Human waves of Communist forces attacked the 2nd Battalion outpost. During the fierce to-the-end fighting Ducharme went missing. The clash became known as the May Massacre.

Following initial notification of him missing, his family received an official Missing In Action notice from the U.S. Army in 1952. Two years later they received another official Army notice reaffirming Ducharme’s continuous MIA status but with the promise that he will never be forgotten.

The Missoula-Hamilton Marine Honor Guard does a 21-shot salute to Frank J. Ducharme. (B.L. Azure photo) The Missoula-Hamilton Marine Honor Guard does a 21-shot salute to Frank J. Ducharme. (B.L. Azure photo)

Sixty-four years later the never forgotten fallen warrior has come back in memory. His dog tags and potential remains were found in the Hongcheon River area in Gangwon Province, Korea Oct. 21, 2015.

The U.S. Army has conducted preliminary DNA tests, Ducharme’s paternal side of the family submitted samples, now the Army officials want DNA samples from his maternal side to further confirm the remains belong to Frank. Members of the maternal side of the split family will travel to the east coast this summer to submit the samples.

Corky Clairmont, and Korea War era veterans Wyman McDonald, Rusty Cordier and Darryl Dupuis were among the vets honored at the Arlee Esyapqeni. (B.L. Azure photo) Corky Clairmont, and Korea War era veterans Wyman McDonald, Rusty Cordier and Darryl Dupuis were among the vets honored at the Arlee Esyapqeni. (B.L. Azure photo)

CSKT Tribal Council Chairman Vernon Finley told folks at the event that often people question why Indians serve in the military. It is part of the culture and part of the civic duty, he said. He added that the civic duty of the military and the American citizens is to never leave its warriors behind. That was exemplified in the more than 60-year effort to repatriate remains of those missing in Korea, such as Frank.

Montana Congressional Representative Republican Greg Gianforte, echoed Finley and said that it is of the utmost importance that America honors that sacred promise that no man or woman serving America in wars never be left behind.

The Arlee Esyapqeni was the place to be during the extended 4th of July holiday. (B.L. Azure photo) The Arlee Esyapqeni was the place to be during the extended 4th of July holiday. (B.L. Azure photo)

Through the efforts of a private non-profit organization “Bring Them Home” and the U.S. Army the once left behind but not forgotten Frank J. Ducharme will soon be coming home.

Frank’s sister Carrie Irvine said the finding of his dog tags and potential remains have stirred the embers of his memory and rekindled fading remembrances. Although she was just two years old when her brother went Missing in Action, his memory was part of her growing up. She said she is extremely happy that the closure for the family will finally come but a bit sad that Franks’ parents weren’t alive to finally know their son has been found.

Father and son dancers Pat Pierre (right) and Allen Pierre are fixtures at the Arlee Esyapqeni. (B.L. Azure photo) Father and son dancers Pat Pierre (right) and Allen Pierre are fixtures at the Arlee Esyapqeni. (B.L. Azure photo)

During Frank’s recognition at Arlee, Carrie and her sister Denise Banguis were presented with an American and MIA/POW flag from the Missoula-Hamilton Honor Guard and the Montana National Guard. Then there was a 12-shot salute.

Then the other veterans at the Arlee Esyapqeni were recognized.

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