Shawn Thompson was among his people — his Oyate.
Under a leaden sky hinting of rain, Thompson marched around hundreds of American flags planted on a field off U.S. Highway 377, prayer beads in hand, remembering friends and strangers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for country.
“I prayed for a fallen Marine, my buddy, people I know, that was important to me,” the 33-year-old combat veteran said. “When I do a prayer, like this, each one of these beads is something that’s like a deep breath.”
As a gentle wind whipped the flags, Thompson would stop, read the dedication and say a prayer.
“Every time I do it, I just do like a really deep breath. And I kind of smile at the flag with my heart in a way, and kind of put a positive affirmation on it,” he added.
The Rally Project puts on the Field of Flags display as a way for people to honor and remember “The American Servant Warrior,” according to its website.
The project’s commander, Chaplain Doug Pruitt, said of Thompson: “I have the privilege of being here with him.
“You know, we can look back biblically and look at the incense that was burned in the temple and the fragrance that was sent to God’s nose,” he said. “And when he comes out here and decides that’s what he wanted to do, how could I stop that spirit of God.”
Thompson’s spirituality guides him.
“You know, to me practicing the Lakota way, and walking a spiritual path like I have these days, it means a lot to me,” Thompson said. “And you get to do these things, you know, to bless these things and have that sage burning around.”
He said he has walked the perimeter of the field burning sticks of sage as a blessing.
“Like the wind told me where to go. So I smell the wind and I had fun with it, you know, my spirit is kind of playful,” he said. “But yeah, it’s been an interesting experience getting to do that.”
The exercise, Pruitt said, helps the young veteran as well.
“It helps to heal,” he added.