Since last we celebrated a Memorial Day, Douglas E. Vanderhoop has become one of the highest decorated veterans in the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah). In the annual Ute Tribe’s Fourth of July Pow Wow, Mr. Vanderhoop was initiated into the Red Feather Society, the highest military honor that can be bestowed upon indigenous tribal members in the United States and Canada. The recognition goes to Indian warriors who were wounded in battle and decorated with the military Purple Heart.

This week, days before Memorial Day weekend, Mr. Vanderhoop said he was deeply honored in receiving the award. It is recognition that is not often bestowed. He was inducted along with five others.

“The honor respects me, it respects the native Indian troops that have served,” he said.

Mr. Vanderhoop was born in Oak Bluffs in 1941. His parents are C. Earl and Edith Vanderhoop of Aquinnah. Soon after graduating from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School he went into the U.S. Army; that was in 1962. He was a soldier in the 1st Infantry Division and earned the name “The Big Red One.” Mr. Vanderhoop served in Viet Nam. While on duty, the convoy he was in was attacked. The truck he rode in was blown up and Mr. Vanderhoop suffered a broken back.

In service to his country he received a Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge, Machine Gun M-60 badge and Viet Nam Service medal.

Looking back to those years of his youth, Mr. Vanderhoop said: “I was drafted, I felt it was time for me to go into the service. It was my duty. I didn’t expect to be in Viet Nam. Whether you agreed or disagreed with the Viet Nam War, I served.”

Now, as he watches troops returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan, he sees them being properly honored as they should be. That didn’t happen when troops returned from Viet Nam, and that was unfortunate.

It was an honorable thing to serve the country, he said. After the Viet Nam War, he said: “I personally feel that one of the biggest lessons we as a nation learned is that we need to respect and honor all military personnel. Give them what they are due, because of their service. The military uniform is an honorable thing to wear.”

After serving the military, Mr. Vanderhoop went on to work for 21 years for the Uintah and Duchesne School Districts in Utah as a first grade teacher and Title 1 coordinator. One of the great blessings of being a teacher, he said, was that it afforded both him and his working wife, Linda (she worked at Utah State as a teacher), an opportunity to come home to the Vineyard in the summer to be with family and to get back to eating freshly caught fish.

The couple have two grown children, Justin and Rachel, and seven grandchildren. Since retiring as an educator, he has joined with his 35-year-old son to help him with his 25-head Black Angus cattle ranch.

Mr. Vanderhoop said he was deeply honored to become a member of the society. “The Red Feather Society is nationwide,” he said. From year to year it takes place infrequently at different reservations.

A significant part of the ceremony is having a red feather tied to the braid of the veteran’s head. Those who join the society know that “men of this society will be called upon when needed. They are told that they cannot refuse when asked for assistance, for they are still in service to their people, they promised to protect,” according to a report in the tribe’s newsletter.

Kristina Hook-Leslie, a resident of Aquinnah and member of the tribe, said she has warm memories of watching “Dougie” grow up. “We grew up together,” Ms. Hook-Leslie said. “As a member of the tribe he is well respected. I feel very proud of him. I have memories of when he went off to Viet Nam. A lot of us grew up with family members who were in the service. My late brother, Silas Kestenbaum, and my brother, William, who lives in California, were in the service. I tell my friends, ‘Go to the Aquinnah town hall and look at the rock: you can see how many have served the country.’”