OKEECHOBEE COUNTY, Fla. — On Monday, America honors all veterans who served our armed services – even those who weren't fully recognized as citizens. This includes service members from the Seminole Indian Tribe here in Florida.
WPTV morning anchor Mike Trim was the guest speaker at their Veterans Day event, and he said he quickly learned members of the Seminole Tribe take tremendous pride in military service for the United States.
Outside of the Seminole Indian Veterans Building in Okeechobee County, you can just feel the history.
Vietnam War veteran and tribe member Paul Bowers speaks it.
Bowers said “soldiers day” is the closest translation to "Happy Veterans Day" within the Seminole nation.
"We're always taught to defend your own property as well as your own country. So, I think the thought is still there, and some of them join the military to protect the country," said Mitchell Cypress, the president of the Seminole Tribe of Florida Incorporated.
He's one of 79 Seminoles that served in the U.S. military.
Their tribe wasn't fully recognized by the government until the 1950s, but while serving, they all say they were part of the same team.
"When we get together, it's like a bond that we have. Not just because we're Indians. We're all kind of like family, but we served fighting for our country," said one Seminole veteran.
Unconquered is a phrase you will hear in Seminole nation.
They are the only Native American tribe that never signed a formal peace treaty with the U.S. government, and according to the Tribe's veterans affairs director, no Seminole Indian died in active U.S. military wartime service.
"The Seminole tribe, they've always been fighting since the day they were born. So, they wish they were still fighting," said Cypress.
That pride was on display recently as veterans shook hands with former service men and women who were visiting the reservation.
This leaves veterans like Bowers feeling honored.
"We’re happy for everybody to be welcomed home and appreciate all the work that they did and the freedom we have today," said Bowers.
A freedom the Seminole Tribe say they'll continue to protect for years to come.