By Kelly Werthmann
DENVER (CBS4) – Thousands of veterans are making their way to Standing Rock this weekend, including several vets from across Colorado.
“We’re all here for a singular mission, which is to support the effort by the tribes who are involved in this because the struggle isn’t just about them, it’s about Americans. It’s about us together,” said Greg Duran, a U.S. Air Force veteran and organizer of Saturday’s trip.
More than two dozen men and women from Colorado will make the more than 600-mile journey by bus from Denver to North Dakota. Once there, they will join the Native Americans protesting the construction of a pipeline they say threatens their water, land and well-being.
“When everything is gone, the water is destroyed, the land is destroyed, you can’t eat money,” Molly Ryan Kills Enemy, member of the Four Winds American Indian Council, told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann. “It’s more than just the ancestral grounds; it’s understanding what’s happening, what will happen, and knowing it will happen. There are prophecies out there that talk about this black snake coming through and destroying the earth.”
Veterans will join demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline, where protestors have engaged in a standoff for months. At times, the demonstrations have taken a violent turn. Proponents of the pipeline, which would transport more than 500,000 barrels of oil a day, say the project is safe. However, opponents argue the government never consulted the Standing Rock Sioux tribe before approving it.
“A lot of people that serve in the military fight another man’s war. I feel like this is something that’s actually very detrimental to this country,” said Ryan Mann, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran who left for North Dakota on Saturday.
Despite an order from the American Corps of Engineers to vacate the land by Dec. 5, protesters are not backing down. Veterans who departed Saturday morning said they intend to take part peacefully.
“Our whole thing is to show support and lock arms in brotherhood. It’s what we’re used to doing as veterans, but we’re doing that with everybody now,” Duran said.
Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team in 2012 as the morning reporter, covering national stories like the Aurora Theater Shooting and devastating Colorado wildfires. She now anchors CBS4 Weekend Morning News and reports during the week. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @KellyCBS4.