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Pfc. Sheldon R. Hawk Eagle
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Army Pfc. Sheldon R. Hawk Eagle, 21, of Grand Forks, N.D.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; killed Nov. 15 when two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters crashed in Mosul, Iraq.


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Hundreds of veterans, friends and members of Pfc. Sheldon Hawk Eagle's Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe escort his body to the Eagle Butte (S.D.) High School gymnasium for a memorial service Monday and funeral Tuesday. The 21-year-old soldier died in Iraq last week and a memorial march was held in his honor Monday. Funeral services will be held Tuesday in the high school followed by burial services in Black Hill National Cemetery in Sturgis, S.D.

IN REMEMBRANCE: Pride and honor
Cheyenne River Sioux hold march for fallen soldier Sheldon Hawk Eagle

Grand Forks Herald Staff Writer
The hundreds who gathered here Monday to pay their respects to Pfc. Sheldon Ray Hawk Eagle were oblivious to the bitter cold.

Family, friends, soldiers and veterans, on foot and on horseback, escorted Hawk Eagle's body from the cultural center to the Eagle Butte High School gymnasium for a memorial tribute and wake service.

Hawk Eagle, a 21-year-old native of Eagle Butte, S.D., and a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, was killed when two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters crashed over Mosul, Iraq, on Nov. 13.

He joined the U.S. Army in July 2002 when he was living with his aunt, UND student Barb Turner, in Grand Forks.

His parents are dead, but Hawk Eagle still has many friends and relatives in Eagle Butte, where he graduated from high school in 2001.

Hawk Eagle's family escorted his body to the cultural center on the east edge of Eagle Butte where Francis "Punch" Thompson waited with a team of horses and a wagon.

Using a horse-drawn wagon to carry a soldier's body is a military custom, said Buck Means, who is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and a relative of Hawk Eagle's. He served in the U.S. Army during the first Gulf War in the 101st Airborne Division, the same unit that Hawk Eagle fought beside in Iraq.

Monday's ceremony was a mix of military and Lakota traditions.

A riderless horse draped with a red, white and blue blanket waited with the horse-drawn wagon. The horse, called a spirit horse, carries the warrior to heaven, Means said.

"A long time ago they put the horse down next to the warrior who lost his life. Now they give it to someone," he said. "The eagle feather it's wearing represents Sheldon, his accomplishments in Iraq and what he's done for our people."

The Eagle Feather is the highest honor the tribe bestows on its members.

Community support

Thompson, who drove the wagon, and many others at the ceremony on Monday, had no family connection to the Hawk Eagles. They just wanted to help.

"It was my honor to bring the horse," said Jamie Ducheneaux. "I'm just a member of the tribe here and at times like this we all support the family."

On its way to the high school, the wagon carrying Hawk Eagle's body stopped at a tree decorated with yellow ribbons.

Each yellow ribbon represents a soldier from the tribe who has been deployed, said Arbana Thompson, a member of the Cheyenne River Support Circle that started the yellow ribbon tree.

"Every time a soldier comes home, whether it's for R and R or they've been discharged, we have a march and they remove their ribbon from the tree," Thompson said. The group also honors the soldier with an Indian name or an eagle feather or a star quilt.

Hawk Eagle's sister, Frankie, removed her brother's yellow ribbon from the tree. It was replaced with a red, white and blue ribbon.

Military officials also presented the family with medals, a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, to commemorate Hawk Eagle's service to the nation.

Star quilts lined the inside of the high school gymnasium. A long line of veterans passed by Hawk Eagle's body and paid their respects to the family.

Tom Hawk Eagle, of Eagle Butte, said his cousin was humble and quiet but loosened up around family and friends. "He was fun," said Hawk Eagle, adding that the two men grew up calling each other brothers.

He said Hawk Eagle was a descendant of the Lakota leader Crazy Horse who helped defeat Lt. Col. George Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Hawk Eagle began to think about joining the Army toward the end of high school, his cousin said.

A second cousin, Spec. Gary Mound, flew back from Korea to attend the funeral. Many members of the family for several generations have served in the U.S. military, he said.

"I'm glad we could all get together and do this for him, but I wish we didn't have to because I wish he was here," Mound said.

Military funerals are common on the reservation, because so many Native Americans join the armed services in defense of their country.

"Native Americans have the highest per capita of any group in America serving in the military, historically and presently," said South Dakota Rep. Thomas Van Norman. "There is a lot of patriotism and a lot of pride handed down from generation to generation."

Van Norman represents the district that includes the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation and part of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

Roughly 8,500 Cheyenne River Sioux members live on the reservation and, as of last spring, about 88 were deployed to Iraq, said Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier.

"As the days go by, we need to continue to honor Sheldon, support his family and pray for all the soldiers in Iraq who are still fighting for freedom and democracy," he said.

Funeral services for Hawk Eagle will be held at 7 a.m. today in the Eagle Butte High School gymnasium. Burial services will follow at 1 p.m. at the Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis, S.D.

Sister of soldier killed in Iraq says he served with honor
Associated Press

Frankie Hawk Eagle and Barb Turner looked through photographs, remembering the brother and nephew they loved as a friend and a soldier who served with honor.

Pfc. Sheldon Hawk Eagle, 21, of Eagle Butte, S.D., a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, was among 17 Americans killed when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed in Mosul, Iraq, on Saturday.

"He stood for what he believed in. He was a Lakota from Cheyenne River, and he represented our people and our country," Turner said.

Sheldon and his sister, Frankie, 22, were born on the Cheyenne River reservation in South Dakota. Turner, his aunt, attends the University of North Dakota and lives on campus.

Sheldon enlisted in the Army in Grand Forks and was deployed to Iraq in March.

As Frankie and her aunt looked through photographs Monday, they talked about Sheldon, his wisdom and quiet demeanor, his sense of humor, his love of classic cars and how proud he was to be a part of the Army.

"He never said he was homesick, but when he called, it was no five-minute phone call; it was one or more hours," Frankie said.

The phone connection was bad the last time Frankie talked to her brother, about six days before she learned of his death at 2 a.m. Sunday.

"I'm not mad, I'm sad, I'm heartbroken," she said. "But I don't feel anger or madness, because he loved what he was doing, and he knew he was there for a purpose, and did it with honor.

"He just - right before he hung up, we were like, 'I love you, take care. I'll see you soon and I'll call you later,' and I didn't really get to have a conversation with him."

On Monday, Frankie was writing an obituary for her brother:

"His goals were important to him, and his whole persona was full of life," she wrote. "He was well-respected in the Armed Forces and believed that everything he did was for his Family, his Native People and for the most, his country. He was Pfc. R. Hawk Eagle, a United States Army Soldier."

Information from: Grand Forks Herald, Agweek