Indigenous Veteran Honoured by Medal Presentation


Welby ‘Ike” Isaacs with the USS Arizona Medal of Freedom. Photo Supplied

Peter Mallett 
Staff Writer 

A Canadian Armed Forces veteran is the proud first recipient of a medal commemorating the iconic Second World War battleship USS Arizona and its crew. Lance Corporal (retired) Welby ‘Ike’ Isaacs was presented with the USS Arizona Medal of Freedom during an unveiling ceremony on June 23 at Natural Resources Canada lab CanmetMATERIALS in Hamilton, Ont.

“Receiving this medal means so much to me and to my family,” Isaacs said.

Isaacs is a member of the Six Nations of the Grand River and served seven years in the Canadian Armed Forces during the Cold War era. He says being chosen as the first to receive the commemorative medal was one of the biggest honours in his life.

The USS Arizona was destroyed in Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. Six of the 1,177 crew members who died that day were born in Canada. Ed McGrath, Executive Director of the Lauren F. Bruner USS Arizona Memorial Foundation, said the medal recognizes Indigenous Canadians who have served in Canada’s military.

“So often the contributions of First Nations people in the United States and Canada are ignored. Ike was selected by our foundation to honour all Canadian military members and first [nations] Canadians,” he said.

Isaacs joined the Canadian Army in 1959 and served with the Royal Canadian Dragoons regiment in Petawawa. He worked as a radio operator in tanks and other vehicles with deployments to Germany and Egypt. He retired from the military in 1966.

Two Indigenous elders conducted a blessing of the commemorative medal and pieces of steel artifacts from USS Arizona, during the ceremony. The elders were Garry Sault, an Ojibway elder and US Navy Veteran from the Mississauga of the Credit First Nation; and Pat Oakes, an elder from the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne. Also present at the ceremony was Senior Naval Reserve Chaplain of HMCS Prevost Lieutenant-Commander Catherinanne George.

“We took a moment to call to mind all of those sailors who have been impacted and their families, and the lives that were changed in an instant of the attack,” said LCdr George. “We remembered those who endured horrific pain and suffering that day and for years and decades to come.”

Proceeds from sales of the medal are being used to fund an educational program for high school students in the United States and Canada that is currently being developed by The Lauren F. Bruner USS Arizona Memorial Foundation. For more information about the USS Arizona Medal of Freedom and the Lauren F. Bruner USS Arizona Memorial Foundation visit

The USS Arizona Medal of Freedom. Photo supplied


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