Eagle Butte Man Upheld
A second South Dakota soldier was among those killed Saturday, 15 November, in a helicopter crash in Iraq.
Pfc. Sheldon Hawk Eagle, a descendant of Lakota warrior Crazy Horse, was a quiet, focused man who viewed military service as a citizen's duty, people in his hometown of Eagle Butte said Monday.
Hawk Eagle, 21, and a 2001 graduate of Eagle Butte High School, was among the 17 soldiers killed when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
Scott Saboe, a 33-year-old Army pilot from Willow Lake, also was killed, family and friends confirmed Sunday.
The news of Hawk Eagle's death spread rapidly through the community on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, his aunt Grace Kasto said.
"Sheldon was shy, quiet but very focused and hardworking," Kasto, a biology teaching aide at the high school, said. "He was a descendant of Crazy Horse. The family, from my grandfather and uncle, to his father, served," and military duty was essentially a family tradition.
Hawk Eagle's parents, Allen and Bernice Hawk Eagle, died when he was young. He was raised by an uncle and aunt, Harvey and Bernadine Hawk Eagle. He attended grade school in Bridger on the southern part of the reservation, Kasto said, then moved to Eagle Butte for junior high and high school.
He enlisted in the Army during a visit with a sister in Grand Forks, N.D., so his roots in the Eagle Butte area and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe weren't immediately noted after the crash.
But it is in Eagle Butte where he'll be remembered and mourned, said Emanuel Red Bear, a native spiritual leader who teaches Lakota language and culture in the school.
"He was a role model, in his quiet way," Red Bear said. "The younger kids looked up to him. He was very respectful of others, not any trouble at all. Yesterday when they called and told me, it was really hard É He really was a modern-day warrior."
Red Bear said veterans of military service are highly honored in the Lakota culture. They receive special recognition at powwows, and their return home from service brings parades, honoring songs and a feast.
"Because we honor the veterans, the young men want to go into the service," he said.
He remembers Hawk Eagle as an aggressive football player, a two-way player at an end position who excelled at team play and who was a model of sportsmanship on and off the field.
Julie Garreau, who runs the community youth center and who has watched a generation of Eagle Butte boys and girls grow up, said many residents learned of the war casualty during church services on Sunday.
"It really hits the community hard," Garreau said. "It's like, we know the war is real, and we know it's going on, but this makes it so personal. It's happening but it's like it's in another world. Sheldon Hawk Eagle's death brings it into our world."
Red Bear said the community eagerly follows the paths of its young men and women in the military. Whenever news reports describe some military action, "We always wonder if one of our guys was involved," he said.
The eagle feather is one of the highest of Lakota honors, and when soldiers return from duty, they receive a feather in a public ceremony, Red Bear said.
"It's going to be really tough seeing this one come home," he said.
Red Bear said he circulated a sympathy card Monday for members of the teaching staff and others at the school to sign, to show Hawk Eagle's immediate family that the community feels it has lost one of its family members, too.
Plans are under way for a community service for Hawk Eagle. Cynthia McCrea, the high school principal, said the school auditorium probably will be used for the community service. She expects people from across the reservation to attend the service, which is likely to be late this week or early next week.
"He was a really nice young man," she said. "We all remember him."
Monica Eisenbraun had Hawk Eagle in her English classes at the high school. She remembers him as a hard worker who was reserved and quiet in the classroom but who nearly always had his assignments ready.
"It's very quiet here in the school today. It's really subdued," Eisenbraun said.
She said the community celebration for returning veterans includes a ceremony in which a yellow ribbon is removed from a tree. That will be an especially emotional moment during Sheldon Hawk Eagle's homecoming, she said.
Hawk Eagle's smile is what Glenda Nedved remembers.
"He just had a nice smile, he was a cheerful person," said Nedved, a counselor with the school system.
She also recalled that when Hawk Eagle received his high school diploma in May 2001, the commencement ceremony included eight reservation veterans of World War II, old soldiers whose high school studies had been interrupted by war and who finally received diplomas more than half a century later. The ceremony illustrated the unbroken tradition of military service in the community, she said.
So too, she said, does the fact that, even after fighting started in Iraq, Eagle Butte was still a place where military recruiters found willing soldiers.
"Even after things started in Iraq, there were still and lot of young men and women signing up," Nedved said.
Hawk Eagle was an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe whose Lakota name was Wanbli Ohitika, meaning Brave Eagle. He completed basic training in Fort Sill, Okla., and went to Iraq in March.
Reach Terry Woster at 605-224-2760.
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