BILLINGS – For roughly 20 minutes after the plane landed and passengers keyboarded at the Billings Logan International Airport, a large group from the Northern Cheyenne tribe stood patiently at the bottom of the escalator, awaiting a hero returning home.
“I have a big family,” Master Sgt. Eugene Fisher Jr. smiled. He had been awake more than 24 hours traveling home from being stationed in Germany as an airfield manager at Spangdahlem Air Base.
When Fisher descended on the escalator, a drum hit, starting the chant. As is tradition, Fisher would not be touched until he was properly blessed.
“[The ceremony is] to bless his spirit, to welcome his spirit back into society,” said Phillip Whiteman Jr. “When our warriors go into combat, they are not the same when they come home. In order for them to co-exist, we not only welcome the soldier, but their spirit.”
Fisher is part of a long line of veterans within his family and the Northern Cheyenne Tribe.
“The pride that was inside me… It’s a great honor to have this many people come out and support the work I did for 24 years,” he said.
“I always say it’s in our blood, said Beaver Tallbull, a Northern Cheyenne Vietnam veteran in the Army and Fischer’s cousin. “We just want people to know our long history of serving our country. It goes way back.”
American Indians serve in their country’s armed forces in greater numbers per capita than any other ethnic group, according to Huffington Post. For more than 200 years, they have served with distinction in every major conflict.
“Now to see the public, whenever I have this hat on I’m wearing or one that says Vietnam Vet, it’s surprises me how many people come up and say thank you for your service and it makes you feel good,” said Tallbull.
Family and friends, who know Fisher by his nickname “Taters,” lined up to thank him for his sacrifice — a sacrifice the Northern Cheyenne Tribe and its younger generation won’t forget.
“We’re a lot of a warriors in the Northern Cheyenne. For them to come in and support me for the 24 years that I supported this nation, it’s a great honor.”
Fisher had his service ceremony with Air Force on Dec. 1 and will be officially retired April 2018. He is also part of the Blackfeet Tribe.