The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie broke ground on the first American Indian Veterans Memorial at the Riverside National Cemetery on Friday, Sept. 25.
This is VA’s first major monument honoring American Indian, Alaska Native and Pacific Islander Veterans.
“Today is California Native American Day and there is no better way to honor American Indian Veterans than with this groundbreaking ceremony,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “More Native Americans per capita serve our country than any other demographic. This memorial will honor their sacrifice and service in the United States military.”
The memorial at Riverside National Cemetery consists of a plaza and walkway centered on “The Gift,” a twice life-sized bronze statue representing an American Indian. Construction on the memorial is expected to be completed in the next couple of years. The memorial is being paid for with funds raised by the Riverside National Cemetery Support Committee, with substantial funding from Southern California tribes.
Riverside National Cemetery is the busiest cemetery managed by the VA’s National Cemetery Administration. The cemetery was established in 1976 through the transfer of 740 acres from March Air Force Base. The cemetery was dedicated and opened for burials November 11, 1978.
“While this memorial honors American Indian, Alaska Native and Pacific Islander veterans from across the nation, it is a great honor that it is being installed here in Southern California at the Riverside National Cemetery,” said Ken Ramirez, chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, one of the major contributors to the project. “With so many tribes here in the Inland Empire and San Diego County, it is sure to become a revered destination for many proud Americans who understand the significant contribution that Native Americans had in armed conflicts.”