In the major conflicts of the 20th Century, American Indians claimed the highest volunteerism rate of any ethnic group in the U.S.    Two young Blackfeet men, Ernest DuBray and my father, were among those listed who enlisted in 1942. My father served in the Navy in the Pacific and Ernest was in the Army Air Force as a radioman and tail-gunner aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress over Europe. In the skies of Nazi Germany, the 8th Air Force suffered 58% casualties, but amazingly, Sgt. Ernest DuBray flew 52 missions (30 were required). He was shot down twice, escaped from behind enemy lines once and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and a 3 Oak Leaf Clusters. Ernest finished the war as one of the most highly decorated servicemen from Montana.

Like Ira Hayes, the Pima Indian flag raiser of Iwo Jima, Ernest suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after the war. Like Ira Hayes, Ernest’s life unraveled into alcoholic despair and spiraled downward. He died June 12, 1963. This song is dedicated to our country’s warriors who have, since Viet Nam, discovered the “talking circle” (support group therapy) to aid the process of healing.

We became men in the skies above the Reich
Bombing daily, the British bombed by night
We were young then, with dreams to go back home
Some were broken, their shadows left to roam.

Through the green grass of 1942,
We enlisted, sacrificing school.
Only God knew when, or if, we would return.
Our duty was freedom to be earned.

Fortresses suspended in the atmosphere,
The earth lay like a dream miles below.
German fighter aces cut our crews in half.
We fell into eternity in droves.
From the sky.

Ha hey Haw-naw hey-naw
Ha ley-ya hay naw, ha hey-la-hey

Missions became memories by the fall of ’45.
Peace tasted sweet for those who survived.
Casualties of war were over, but for some,
Streams of nightmares had really just begun.

If we had the chance to live our lives again
We’d find another way to ease the pain.
Sober circles work to keep our demons down.
Our lives could be close to whole again.

Sometimes Eagles have trouble on the ground.

Ha hey haw-naw Hey-naw
Ha ley-ya hey naw, ha hey-la-hey

Sergeant Ernest C. DuBray and this world parted ways
In the water below St. Mary’s Lake.
As a warrior ascended, a Native Son went down.
Sometimes Eagles have trouble on the ground.

Let’s remember our heroes whose stars have fallen down
Sometimes Eagles have trouble on the ground

We became men in the skies above the Reich...

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