Native American Indian's made Prayer Ties by wrapping sacred herbs into a cloth while they prayed to the Great Spirit. Once the Prayer Ties were completed they were burned in a respectful and reverent ceremony, assuring that the prayers the tribe made would be sent up to the heavens and carried to the Creator in the smoke.
Each year in the tradition of our Native Americans, Ed "Fingers" Goen and J.R. "Cleaner" Franklin, make Prayer Ties by wrapping herbs, tobacco, and soil into a cloth as they pray for the return of our MIA. Included in the ties is wood from Vietnam. They also include the names of each of our 1,805 MIA brothers and make enough ties to carry each name on RFTW.
As we already know, RFTW participants "ride for those who can't" and these Prayer Ties allow Fingers and Cleaner to carry our MIA brother's spirits as they travel across our great nation.
In 2006 a friend and fellow Vietnam Veteran, Jerry Robbins, carried one of Fingers' and Cleaner's Prayer Ties as he rode with RFTW. But when Jerry arrived in Arlington, Virginia, he became ill and could not deliver the Prayer Tie to The Wall. Several of us were with Jerry on the evening of May 25 when he asked if one of us would be willing to carry the Prayer Tie he had carried from Ontario to The Wall for him. I told him that it would be my honor.
So, the next day on Friday, May 26, 2006 at about 11:10 p.m. in a pelting rain, I carried the Prayer Tie to the apex of The Wall. As those who were with me that night already know, I decided not leave the Prayer Tie at The Wall, but instead to return it to the place it originated. The practice of returning Prayer Ties to their origin after the completion of their journey is also in the tradition of our Native Americans. Once returned, the tribe would burn the Prayer Tie in a respectful and reverent ceremony, thus assuring that the prayers that were made during its creation and journey would be sent up to the heavens and carried to The Creator in the smoke. So, I carried Jerry's Prayer Tie back to California, and at the July meeting of Chapter 785 of the Vietnam Veteran's of America, we performed the following ceremony.
The Prayer Tie was placed on four rocks positioned to the cardinal points of north, south, east and west.
All of the Chapter 785 veteran's present formed a circle around the Prayer Tie and the following words were spoken:
"According to Black Elk, Hereditary Chief of the Oglala Lakota Sioux the power of the world always works in circles. Everything tries to be round. The sky is round, the earth is round, and so are the stars. The wind in its greatest power whirls. Birds make their nests in circles and even the seasons form a great circle in their changing and always come back again to where they were. The life of man is a circle, from childhood to childhood. And so it is in everything."
"I will now read the Service of Prayer and Reconciliation by Alan D. Cutter, Minister Presbyterian Church."
"Cordite, chemical and diesel were the incense lifted up.
'Patrol' was our processional, as negotiated towards the place of sacrifice.
Booby traps and land mines were our invocations.
Ambush and engagement our call to worship.
Explosion and bullet whine our hymns of praise.
Blood was our baptism.
Inedible food seasoned by fear and sweat our communion.
Codes were our scriptures, and our litanies were reports and messages.
And the word of the day was: 'death given and death received.'
Evacuation was our recessional.
In the rising of the sun and in its going down, we remember them.
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, we remember them.
In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them.
In the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer, we remember them.
In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them.
When we have joys and special celebrations we yearn to share, we remember them.
When we see our nations young marching behind our flag, or hear 'taps' played, we remember them.
So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are part of us.
And when we answer the final roll, we know that our brothers and sisters will fulfill their duty, and greet us with the words of compassion and friendship, peace and love:
The Prayer Tie was ignited.
Everyone then faced to the east:
"Red is the east. It is where the daybreak star, The star of knowledge appears. Red is the rising sun Bringing us a new day New experiences. We thank you God for each new day That we are allowed to live upon Our Mother Earth. From knowledge springs wisdom and goodness And we are thankful, Oh God, For the morning sun that rises in the east. Knowledge shall become the beginning For ultimate peace throughout this world."
We then turned to the south:
"The south is yellow. Our Mother Earth gives us growth, Gives us all that sustains us, And herbs that heal us. She brings forth the bounty of springtime From the warm south wind And the yellow hoop. We think of strength, growth and physical healing And a time for planting our energies."
We then turned to the west:
"Black is the color of the west Where the sun goes down. Black is darkness, release, spirit protection. In the darkness, the spirit beings come to us. The spirit beings warn us, Protect us, foretell for us, and release us. They are the spirit helpers of God. Black is the cup of water. The life-giving rains come from the west, Where the thunder beings live. Water is life."
We then turned to the north
"White is the north. The north stands for strength, endurance, purity, and truth. The north covers Mother Earth With a white blanket of cleansing snow. Courage and endurance, These strengths we seek And wish to be blessed with As we stand here facing north."
Holy Water was then poured onto the ablaze Prayer Tie and as the smoke lifted to heaven -
"Oh, God, The water of life brings forth smoke that rises to you From this symbol of our missing brothers. We pray that one day each of them will return From the east, the south, the west, and the north To be with us again in peace And in eternal life by your side in Heaven.