The Southern Ute Veterans Association can be traced back to the year 1986. It began with a group of three Vietnam-era veterans – the late Roger E. Price, Howard Richards Sr. and Randy Baker Sr. – sitting in a backyard on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation, discussing issues involving the Southern Ute veterans. They assessed the needs of the tribal veterans and ways to bring attention to those needs and help them receive the recognition they deserved.
It was from this modest gathering of caring and concerned individuals that the concept of a Veterans Association for Southern Ute tribal members became a reality. The founders worked hard on forming this new organization, and the progress was slow. Many times expenses incurred were paid out of their own pockets.
In 1994, the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council donated a park on the upper tribal campus to the Southern Ute Veterans Association. This park has since become know as the Veterans Memorial Park. It has housed and honored the Vietnam Veterans Moving Wall, and is the focal point for a number of community events. A monument naming all the Southern Ute tribal members to have served honorably in the U.S. military is the park’s centerpiece.
In 1995, the association’s membership had grown so much that its leadership felt the time was right to seek formal tribal recognition. The members drafted a set of bylaws to guide their organization’s purpose and leadership. It was then that the name “Southern Ute Veterans Association” was formally adopted, and with the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council’s approval of the bylaws, the association became official.
Beyond addressing the needs of veterans and helping them procure benefits, the association is active in many community functions. Its members are always willing to provide – at no cost – military services and color guards when asked.