For the past 21 years, Charlie Harjo has participated in every powwow hosted by the Wichita Kansas Intertribal Warrior Society.
Harjo, who is of Choctaw and Creek heritage, was a soldier in Vietnam.
On Sunday he was one of the veterans participating in the gourd dancing at the Veterans Day Powwow.
When Harjo was young, his father used to tell him that he hoped his son would never see what his eyes had seen.
"I never knew what he was talking about," said Harjo, 61, "until I saw it in Vietnam."
In Vietnam, Harjo said, he watched fellow soldiers die, including one named Sgt. Flowers.
"He was wounded and lying there and looked over at me and said, 'Don't forget me, Chief.' Back then, they called every Indian 'Chief.' "
When Harjo came back to the United States in 1969, he said, he tried to forget Sgt. Flowers.
"I started drinking to forget," he said — until July 1987, when the Healing Wall came to Wichita. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall stirred tearful emotions, Harjo said. There, he came across his friend's name and also confronted his own cultural past.
Not long after, Harjo became a member of the Wichita Intertribal Warrior Society, a group whose responsibility has been for its members — warriors — to take care of family and friends.
Now the group welcomes young warriors, men and women of all races who are returning soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq.
"All these soldiers, whether they come back wounded in their body or live with things in their mind, they have all been affected," Harjo said. "We want them to know we still care and are there to support them."
On Sunday, the drum echoed throughout the Mid-America All-Indian Center, where about 250 people attended the powwow.
The warriors danced for their families, friends and each other. They prayed that young warriors would come home safe.
"I don't want to see no more of our young people go," Harjo said, his voice breaking with emotion as he pointed to own body. "These scars can heal, but it's what is up in our brain that doesn't.
"I know of veterans who come home and sleep with their backs against the wall. They are no longer close with their wives and children. They come back not knowing who to trust. I pray they can sleep at night."
Cheryl Hull was one of the younger veterans attending Sunday's powwow.
Hull, who grew up in Wichita but now lives in Hawaii, said she was going to come home for Thanksgiving, but her parents asked her to return sooner so they could attend the powwow together.
Hull, of Menominee heritage, has served several tours in Iraq, where she worked in intelligence support.
"I feel others are more deserving. I know people who have sacrificed more than I have. I know others who are still over there," she said. "I just want to get back to living a normal life."