Native Americans serve in the United States Armed Forces at five times the national average. For a community that has persevered through decades of challenges, Native Americans – also called American Indians – have remained steadfast in their defense of the United States as members of the Armed Forces for centuries. So, it is only natural they would wish to keep that military service heritage alive for future generations.
Kent Ware Sr., a highly decorated World War II veteran and respected elder of the Kiowa tribe, dreamed of building a memorial to honor the American Indian veterans of all wars. He founded the American Indian Veterans Memorial Organization (AIVMO) to provide a place for veterans, their families, loved ones, and survivors to gather and pay tribute to living and deceased military members. AIVMO was granted a site to build the Memorial at Steele Indian School Park under a Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Phoenix, Parks, and Recreation Department.
Renowned Hopi artist, veteran, and Phoenix Indian School graduate Dennis Numekena designed the Memorial to capture the spirit of the eagle and incorporate the four elements of creation: fire, water, earth, and air. Using these ceremonial elements in the design gives it a sense of American Indian spirituality to guide bringing the spirits of all beloved warriors home. The Memorial will be built at the west end of Steele Indian School Lake. The original architectural design has been altered slightly by Navajo architect Richard Begaye, a partner of SPS+Architecture, to fit the site better.
Although the original project lay dormant for years after Kent Ware Senior’s death, his son Kent Ware is reviving the effort to build the Memorial, which costs about $700,000.
“My dad was a top turret gun runner in a B17 World War II bomber. His military service was important to him, and he felt that since the Indian School was gone, he wanted his descendants to be able to recognize American Indian Veterans. We’re working to keep his vision going,” Ware says.
Their team has already raised $350,000 to build the Memorial. One of the key supporters is Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community Vice President Ricardo Leonard. His tribe is contributing along with the Tohono O’odham Nation, the Gila River Indian Community, and the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation.
Individuals can support the Memorial by purchasing personalized bricks for $150.00 each. These bricks, which can have up to three lines of inscription, will be laid in a particular area of the Memorial.
You can donate or purchase a brick for the AIVMO, a 501c3 nonprofit, by calling 480-951-2910 or going online at https://aivmoaz.org/.