Fort Riley, Kansas



COMMUNITY CORNER – Honoring legacy of Native Americans

By Col. John D. Lawrence | GARRISON COMMANDER | November 07, 2017

     “Standing Together” is the theme for this year’s National Na­tive American Heritage Month, which runs until Nov. 30. I can think of no better way to describe the camaraderie between all backgrounds in our United States Army — we all stand together with a shared vision, mission and goals. Native Americans have provided crucial service to our country during war and peacetime.

     More than 8,000 Native Americans served in the Army during World War I, moving Congress to pass the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 for their patriotism. In World War II, 25,000 American Indian and Alaska Native men and women fought on all fronts in Europe and the South Pacific, earning 71 Air Medals, 51 Silver Stars, 47 Bronze Stars, 34 Distinguished Flying Crosses and two Congressional Medals of Honor.

     And we must remember the vital contributions of the WWI and WWII “code talkers” who used their tribal languages as a military code that could not be broken by the enemy. This elite group came from many differ­ent tribes, including Chip­pewa, Choctaw, Creek, Crow, Comanche, Hopi, Navajo, Seminole and Sioux. In No­vember 2013, code talkers from 566 tribes were honored with Congressional Silver Medals, and leaders from the tribes’ 33 nations received Congressional Gold Medals.

     Historically, Native Americans have had the highest record of military service per capita when compared to other ethnic groups. The reasons are deeply rooted in traditional cultural values that align with service to the country — a proud warrior tradition, strength, honor, pride, devotion and wisdom. Diversity in our military keeps us flexible and allows us to learn from each other through our different cultural backgrounds, making us stronger — together.

     Fort Riley continues to honor the culture of our local Native Americans by protecting and preserving sacred areas on post. The Nov. 17 edition of the 1st Infantry Division Post will feature a story about how we honor the native culture and areas entrusted to our care. We’ll also have a Native American Heritage Month ob­servance at Barlow Theater Nov. 15 from Noon to 1 p.m. Please join us to honor the cultures and tradi­tions of our Native American service members, civilians and family members.

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