NNAHM: Highlighting heritage, history

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kaci Martin
  • 81st Inpatient Operations Squadron

November is a time to commemorate our Native American brothers and sisters. It is a time to educate ourselves on the heritage and history that Native Americans have so courageously contributed in today’s military. It is a time to learn just how big of an impact they have had throughout the history of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Native Americans, also called American Indians and often Native Alaskans, serve in the military at five times the national average, according to D. DeSimone’s article “A History of Military Service.” That is 19% of all Native Americans, in comparison to 14% of all other ethnicities. Almost 20% of Native Americans serving are women, compared to the 15% of women with other ethnic backgrounds. Despite the challenges that they have faced though many decades, including a complicated history with the U.S. due to broken treaties, forced removals and forced assimilation, Native Americans have remained committed to serving in the U.S. military.

Native Americans have served in the military since the Revolutionary War and participated in every major conflict since, according to J. Simpkins’ article “A Warrior Tradition.” 42,000 Native Americans served in the Vietnam War and a staggering 90% of them were all volunteers. During World War II, those named “Navajo Code Talkers” have made a monumental impact on our military. They created a special code using their indigenous language to convey sensitive data. The majority of Navajo Code Talkers were from the Navajo, Cherokee, Choctaw, Lakota, Meskwaki and Comanche tribes. The Japanese military were dangerously proficient at decrypting codes, but they never broke the Navajo Code. This skill that the Native Americans contributed played a critical role in the U.S. winning the war in the Pacific theater.

It is crucial that we are familiar with and discuss Native American heritage. Native Americans merit recognition and appreciation for their infinite perseverance in our military, despite the challenges of their past and present. We thank them for their commitment and are honored to serve with them as brothers and sisters in arms.