- Being a Native American, it's important to be one of the first guys to do anything.
So when I found out that there was a war going on, and we were going to be the first guys in there, to me, that was really important.
(Calm music) - Hi, I'm Shain Brenden.
As a vet, I understand how certain objects can be meaningful.
An object can remind us of why we served, what we did or help transition us back into civilian life.
Today, I talk to a veteran whose object served as a constant reminder of his heritage and ancestors and the valuable lessons they taught him.
- My name is Harvey Phillip Pratt.
I served in the United States Marine Corps three years, and I got out as a Lance Corporal.
I am a Native American.
I'm a Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Sioux, and I'm a 16th French and a 16th English.
- Why did you enlist in the military?
What motivated you?
What inspired you to want to sign up?
- I had an uncle that was always kind of my hero.
He's a Marine Corps guy.
And I had been going to college for a little while, and I was having a hard time, and I just thought, I gotta get outta here, you know?
So I went down to the recruiters and joined the Marine Corps.
I'd never even heard of Vietnam.
When I came home, I told my mother.
I said, Mom, I just joined the Marine Corps, and I'm leaving in three days.
- Before you shipped out, did you feel prepared to go to Vietnam?
- I thought we were really well trained.
I felt invincible.
I tell you, when we'd be somewhere, going somewhere in the jungle, even in training, "Let the Indian do it.
Indians are good at that."
So when they would depend on me like that, I felt like I had to perform.
That's the role of a warrior is to take care of the people that are around you.
- The pebble is actually one of the things you took with you when you deployed, correct?
- The pebble that my grandfather gave me was kind of like a little river rock, little smooth stone.
And I carried that.
My grandfather, he said, you need to learn to go without water.
This little pebble, put it in your mouth, and you'll make your own water.
That was just something that was like a little good luck charm for me.
You know, I had it everywhere.
- With the pebble, when you were deployed with your platoon, did you try to show the other guys the trick?
- You know, I never did.
A lot of things that I did, they didn't understand, and they might make fun of what I was doing, you know.
I didn't share a lot of that with them, but I shared my water.
I think that just comes pretty natural with guys that are in combat together.
You know, guys say, well, you're fighting for your country.
Well, you might be fighting for your country, but you're really fighting for the guy right next to you.
And so I think that I, without thinking about it too hard, I watched out for the guys.
I had that camaraderie in the military, and when I got out, I got it again almost within six months with the police.
And then over the years I became a detective.
I was with another group of people that had a common goal.
- What embodies an elder?
What are your duties and responsibilities?
- An elder has done something that people recognize as an exceptional person, somebody that takes care of things.
They have a job to do.
And they do it.
- Do you feel like there's any similarities between the responsibilities of being an elder and also a veteran?
- Oh, I think they're the same to me.
You have obligations.
You have a chief, you have to be the best you can be.
You have a duty to be the best veteran that you can be.
I love being involved with, with these veterans, you know, and helping them.
We have our own memorial for veterans out at our complex.
We have our own American Legion post.
They come from all over the state.
We have that camaraderie among Native American veterans.
They get that same kind of companionship and feeling that everybody, you know, that have that same attitude.
And it's important to have some kind of connection and bonding with people.
- Can you talk to me a little bit about why you've kept the objects all these years and what do they still mean to you?
- I started visiting with guys that I served in Vietnam with, and we would talk about things.
So you might ask, you still have your P38, you know, which is a can opener, you know, and I say, yeah, and oh, your lighter, and so, you know, I say, yeah, I got all that.
And I had that pebble.
Those things became important to me.
A lot of times when I go to these veteran meetings, I'll wear my dog tags.
It's a badge of honor to me.
(Calm piano music)