Sgt. Nettleton's family with Spirit the Bald Eagle
Complete Photo Album From the Event
Read Spirit's Story
Bald Eagle Release
A rehabilitated bald eagle named Spirit was released back into the wild during a 2:15 p.m. ceremony at the Mid-America All-Indian Center on Saturday, Feb. 26. The event was preceded by two showings of the film "American Eagle" at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to provide background information about eagles and their offspring. The entire afternoon was being dedicated to Sgt. Eric Nettleton and Spcl. Thomas Moffitt, two Wichita soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Ken Lockwood of the Eagle Valley Raptor Center in Cheney was Spirit's handler. Before she took flight, Elder Mark Brown from the Lakota tribe blessed the soldiers' families and the eagle. An American Indian Southern drum group played journey songs as she flew away.
It was the third time that the Eagle Valley Raptor Center released a rehabilitated bald eagle back into the wild. The Indian Center was chosen as the setting for this release for two specific reasons: American Indians consider eagles to be sacred, and they have a long tradition of military service.
In addition to the families of Sgt. Nettleton and Spcl. Moffitt, many American Indian veterans were in attendance.
Spirit was found on Dec. 24 near the Ninnescah River in Sedgwick County. She had a shot pellet embedded in her leg and a severe case of lead poisoning -- mostly likely from eating a deer that had been shot with lead bullets. She underwent many weeks of treatment and monitoring at the Eagle Valley Raptor Center, a facility whose mission is to care for nature's injured and orphaned wildlife.