No ethnic segment of the U.S. population has a higher proportion of military service than Native Americans, and the Seneca Nation is no exception.
A U.S. Department of the Navy study estimates total participation by Native Americans since World War I tops 200,000, a count that includes over 1,000 Seneca men and women.
It is estimated some 30 Senecas have served or are serving tours of duty in the continuing U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fifteen Seneca members have earned the prestigious Purple Heart medal for their valor.
Marvin "Joe" Curry, a retired Naval Chief Warrant Office, who served on the USS Little Rock, many Senecas fought and died bravely to protect the values and freedom of the United States and the Nation.
"The Seneca people have a long history of warrior heroes. Many people may think we have been hiding away in the woods, but we haven't. We have defended Mother Earth since before the United States was even in existence. We fended her with war clubs, then bows and arrows, then tomahawks and now with guns," Curry said.
Curry served in the Korean and Vietnam wars, joined by two of his siblings. His brother Wilbur was killed in Vietnam. He also has strong ties to the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, located on the Buffalo waterfront, where the Little Rock is on permanent display.
Curry was instrumental in the 2005 establishment of the Seneca Nation of Indians Veterans Memorial, located outside the Seneca Office Building in Niagara Falls. It bears the names of 61 members of the Six Nations who lost their lives in U.S. military service.
In dedicating the memorial, Seneca President Barry E. Snyder Sr., honored past and current Seneca veterans.
"This memorial stands as a reminder for all of use of the courage, dedications and sacrifice that our veterans have shown throughout history and continue to show today," Snyder said.
A tribute to Joe Curry
Marvin 'Joe' Curry
July 25, 1933 July 24, 2010
Marvin "Joe" Curry, who served as ship superintendent at the Buffalo&Erie County Naval and Military Park for many years, died Saturday at his home on the Cattaraugus Territory. He was 76.
A member of the Seneca Nation's Snipe Clan, Mr. Curry was born on the Cattaraugus Territory and moved to Buffalo, where he attended Burgard Vocational High School.
In 1950, he left high school to enlist in the Navy and served two tours of duty during the Korean War.
He entered the Naval Officer Candidate School in 1966 and graduated as a chief warrant officer. He then went on to serve in the Vietnam War.
During his active duty in the Navy, he served on eight warships, including the U. S. S. Little Rock.
Mr. Curry also was a skilled deep-sea salvage and submarine rescue diver and earned numerous honors.
After completing his military service, he joined the staff of the Naval and Military Park, where he was second-in-command of the facility as ship superintendent.
He was in charge of various vessels, aircraft and the museum at the Buffalo waterfront venue from 1977 until his retirement in 1997.
He also helped to establish the Seneca Nation of Indians Veterans Memorial in 2005.
Mr. Curry reached out to Seneca and other Native American military veterans struggling with physical, mental, financial and other post-military issues, and counseled young Senecas exploring educational and career opportunities in the military. He also offered monthly seminars to new employees of the Seneca Gaming Corp. that included information about Seneca Nation heritage.
"Joe Curry was a great Seneca and resource to the Seneca people," said Seneca Nation President Barry E. Snyder Sr. "The Seneca Nation and I have lost a great friend with his passing. He was a true keeper of the Western Door."
Mr. Curry is survived by two sons, Marvin and Richard Cornfield; a daughter, Marcy Cornfield; and two sisters, Alice Cook and Patricia.