MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, NOV. 14, 2013 --
November marks Native American Heritage Month, a time to recognize the history and contributions Native Americans and Alaska Natives make to the nation.
Native Americans make up a small portion of our nation’s armed forces today totaling roughly 22,000 American Indian and Alaska Native active duty personnel, according to a 2012 Pentagon estimate.
“It is important to acknowledge the contributions of American Indian and the Alaskan Native communities,” said Staff Sgt. Laura E. Johnson, equal opportunity representative with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron. “They have made a great impact in not only the Marine Corps but the U.S. military as a whole.”
This year’s Native American Heritage Month theme is “guiding our destiny with heritage and traditions.”
The Society of American Indian Government Employees, a nonprofit organization representing American Indian and Alaska Natives, as well as federal, tribal, state and local government employees, selected the theme.
Native American Heritage Month, which began as a day of recognition for Native Americans in 1915, is now an annual recognition.
“For over 200 years they have fought with courage,” said Johnson. “They participated in the War of 1812 and the Civil War.” Native Americans and Alaska Natives played a role in each major U.S. conflict of the 20th Century and beyond.
In an interview with American Forces Press Service, Joe Sarcinella, the Department of Defense’s senior advisor and liaison for Native American Affairs, said that the department is more than happy to celebrate Native American contributions to the military.
“The [Department of Defense] is really committed to celebrating all sorts of diversity,” said Sarcinella. “I really feel that [diverse groups are] leading the charge, and November just happens to be that time of the year when we can focus on Native Americans.”
Observing and recognizing the contributions of different cultures throughout the year also helps service members understand the impact different cultures and groups have on the capabilities of each military branch.
“By observing these different races and cultures it gives Marines and Sailors a chance to see and understand the different cultures we have in our service,” said Johnson.