RAYNHAM — U.S. Army veteran Bridget McNutt felt at peace Thursday for the first time since returning home from a 17-year stint in the military.
That peace came when she moved into her new home located at Warriors Way Veterans Village, a housing community established by the Lumbee Tribe for its veteran members in need.
McNutt, one such veteran, said when she retired and returned home in 2011 after an injury, she was changed.
“I’m different. I feel like I’m in a foreign land at home…the way everything is set up (at Warriors Way), I feel at peace,” McNutt said. go. I’m on the rebound.
The Lumbee Tribe administration held a ceremony on Thursday to celebrate the completion of the village. During the ceremony, McNutt along with four other Lumbee veterans, Leary Oxendine, Cary Hunt, James Pierce and Preston Sencebaugh, received the keys to their new homes.
McNutt moved in that day.
The Path to Warriors Way
Construction on Warrior’s Way began in December 2020. The village consists of 10 mobile homes enclosed in the small town of Raynham. The homes were a surplus of FEMA homes, in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, according to Bradley Locklear, the tribe’s housing manager.
The tribe was given 15 houses with the stipulation that at least 10 be used for veterans, he said.
The tribe made additions to the houses, adding raised HVAC systems and a brick foundation, and bringing the houses up to modular standards.
The five veterans were selected for homes under the HUD-VASH program, which is a collaborative program that combines rental assistance from HUD Housing Choice Vouchers with veteran case management and support services for homeless veterans. The Lumbee Tribe is the primary administrator of the HUD-VASH program after piloting the program in 2016, Locklear said.
To meet eligibility, veterans must be members of the Lumbee Tribe facing homelessness or be at imminent risk of homelessness. They must also have a chronic physical or mental health condition or substance abuse issues.
Each year, the Lumbee Tribe receives 20 vouchers to help veterans in need. Last year, the program was extended and the tribe received 20 additional vouchers for the program for the first time ever. This prompted the tribal government to self-fund 10 additional vouchers.
“It was a blessing to be able to do this… It’s not hard to administer 20 vouchers when Native Americans, especially Lumbee Native Americans, served in numbers like our people served,” Locklear said. “Across all demographics, Native Americans have the highest rate of enslavement in the U.S. military.”
Honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice
Those Native American men and women who served and paid the ultimate sacrifice were honored at Thursday’s event which doubled as a Memorial Day ceremony.
The ceremony began with a visit from the All Veterans Parachute Team. The group presented Lumbee Tribe President John Lowery with a wooden American flag with the group’s seal and the phrase “Home of the Free Because of the Brave.”
During the ceremony, the Lumbee Warrior held a special flag ceremony while veteran Debbie Barefoot sang the national anthem.
Lowery took the time to thank the veterans who served, the Lumbee Tribe staff, and all entities that came together to make the Warrior’s Way a reality. He also took time to remember and honor those who served and left.
“This weekend, we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice…It’s a moment of reflection and a moment to remember those people who died protecting our country, our freedom and our family” , Lowery said. “May we never forget our brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, sons and daughters who never came home.”
Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson spoke and pledged to do whatever he can as an elected official to support veterans.
“Native Americans have a long and proud tradition of serving in our military and let me be the first to say that it does not go unnoticed by this nation,” Robinson said.
He noted that when troops were sent to Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea, the amount of money spent was never questioned.
“We never ask for money when the fight is going on,” Robinson said. “The only time we take out the bean counters is when the men and women go home injured.”
“The United States government, our state government, should be as willing to take care of these veterans when they return home as they were willing to send them into battle when the war started.”
US Army veteran Larry Townsend read Lt. Col. John MaCrae’s poem “In Fladers Fields” and spoke about the true meaning of Memorial Day.
“When we were called, we went,” Townsend said. “We did our duty for God and for our country, for our freedom and for each other, hoping that one day we would all return safe and sound from the war and things would be as they were every time. we would leave… Those of us who were lucky enough to go home, things weren’t the same and we’ll never be the same.
On this Memorial Day, we must remember the warriors and more than one million veterans who carried on and paid the ultimate price, Townsend said.
“How do we honor the men and women who have died defending our great nation? You pay them the ultimate sacrifice by remembering them and their service in defending our way of life against hostile forces, both foreign and domestic.
Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at [email protected]