The veterans entered the circle one by one, shaking hands and saying a few words to each other as the announcer called each person's name, military branch, and the war they served in as well as the years they served, beginning with the Anishinaabe veterans.
The annual three-day Veterans Powwow began Friday evening in Sawyer, with a well-attended veterans celebration Saturday afternoon and the end of festivities on Sunday. There were many dances, including some competitions and gifts handed out to random attendees.
The veterans represented many different wars and many branches of the military. Mostly male, a few females also stood proud in the long line of veterans. They had mottos like "Semper fi," meaning "always loyal" for the Marines, "Fight, Fly, Win" for the Air Force, "This we'll defend for the Army" and "Not for self, but for country" for the Navy.
Military signs and symbols were worn proudly on hats, vests, jackets and some were even included with dance regalia. A tattoo on one veteran's bicep declared "NAM '69 '70 '71." A vest warned, "Ranger: Mess with the best, die like the rest." Baseball caps reading Army, Navy, Vietnam or Korean Veteran were perched on mostly white- or gray-haired heads, some closely cropped, others sporting a ponytail.
Peter Razor wore a Korean Veteran baseball cap. The energetic 88-year-old Army veteran was drafted into the war in 1951 and served 15 months.
"They asked me to work in counter intelligence, but I turned it down," Razor said with a laugh.
Instead he became a supervisor of 25 electricians.
"I didn't like it, but it was alright," Razor said. "We were behind the front lines," adding that he felt bad when he saw the dusty line of military vehicles and people go past him toward the front lines.
Razor published a book titled "While the Locust Slept," which tells his life story from the time he was given to a Minnesota state orphanage at 10 months old by his father, abused at the orphanage until he ran away at 15 years old, then given to an abusive farm family until the state finally agreed to let him live on his own. Many years later he reconnected with his lost birth family. The friendly veteran expressed surprise that people were interested in his life story, but wrote the autobiography at the urging and assistance of his daughter.
Three recipients of the purple heart were also recognized Saturday.
According to Fond du Lac Veteran Services Officer Tom Whitebird, 280 veterans signed up to participate for the event at Sawyer this year, but he estimated the total with last-minute participants was more than 300.
To see more photos of the powwow, check out the photo page in the Pine Journal newspaper