Council FIRE and IAM Step Up to Support Native Veterans

Wayne and Kris Thompson

Kris and Wayne Thompson, 
a shining example of good people stepping up to help.

The Veterans Administration at American Lake, just outside of Joint Base Lewis McChord in Tacoma, WA., has supported Native ceremony as support to military personnel suffering from PTSD, and for addressing issues with other concerns such at chemical dependency and other abuses.

Warren Gohl, a Chaplain with the Inter-Tribal Warriors Society, and General Secretary Treasurer for Council FIRE, is one of the leads for the Sweat Lodge and is excited about the positive results that traditional ceremony provides.  “The veterans, and others, who come to these ceremonies are able to find a bit of peace and support”, said Gohl.  “They are in a safe environment, where they can open up and talk to others who have walked in their shoes.  As they leave the lodge, they can hold to the peace and comfort provided as they walk their daily lives – the old ways are still working”.

Kevin Cummings, President and Founder of Council FIRE and Grand Lodge Representative with the IAM, discovered the great expense of firewood that the leaders of the sweats were paying out of their own pockets – up to eight-thousand dollars in a calendar year.  They also had to cut, split and store the wood – no small amount of work.

In response, Cummings knew that help could be found.  He reached out to Wayne Thompson – Business Representative for IAM District W24, and help was on the way.

Thompson, among his many duties as a BR, is a fourteen year veteran of the US Army and represents workers at Weyerhauser.  He sprung into action, and the company has agreed to provide some of the wood necessary to keep the fires burning bright.

Thompson and his wife Kris (also a combat veteran), began gathering wood and started the processing into useable firewood – a HUGE amount of work.  Wayne said, “We feel good about being able to help, Kris and I both served and we take the care of our warriors very seriously.  We look forward to helping in the future”.

On Friday, August 8th, Kris, Wayne, Cummings and John Witten (another leader of the Sweat Lodge) loaded three pickup loads of firewood that the Thompsons had cut into rounds.  The next day, they were joined by Gohl and four others to finish the job.  They cut rounds and split into useable pieces – delivering another four pickup loads to the sacred site that is provided by the VA property.

Thompson added, “Weyerhauser was receptive to my request to them, and we may be able to have this as a continuing gift of support – I feel really good about helping this mission”.

Cummings added, “These types of efforts are exactly the things that Council FIRE ought to be working on – bringing the Labor movement on board with serving our first inhabitants.  We are uniquely situated to help in situations like these, and with raising awareness to native issues that are too easily ignored.  We actively look for opportunities to help, and having people like Kris and Wayne Thompson – and all the others who jumped in to help – makes me very humbled and excited about our future.  The Thompson’s continue to be heroes, and deserve much thanks for their good hearts and hard work”.

Council for First Inhabitants Rights and Equality is a 501(c)(3), and anyone can help with our mission – click here to find out how to join in.

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