By David VergunOctober 31, 2013
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 31, 2013) -- "Throughout our Army's 238-year history, American Indians have served valiantly and with distinction in times of peace and war, while also fighting for the right to be an equal part of our nation," said Army leaders.
Recognizing the contributions of American Indians to the Army and the nation were Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, who tri-signed a "National American Indian Heritage Month" letter for the November observance.
American Indians served in the Army in every war in America's history, as well as in peacetime. Additionally, 25 American Indians have received the nation's highest award for valor -- the Medal of Honor.
"This legacy continues today with the brave Soldiers who have served and continue to serve in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world. We are proud of their service and honored by their sacrifices," said the Army leaders.
While Native Americans have contributed much to the Army and the nation, America's relationship with them has not always been amicable.
Maj. Gen. Gregg Potter addressed Soldiers and guests at last November's Native American celebrations at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., where he was then commander of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence.
"Native American heritage celebrations are very, very important because we learn about other cultures," Potter said. "The Army has not always done so well with understanding other cultures. Native American Heritage Month is very important because that is a culture that we didn't understand.
"Quite frankly," he continued, "we didn't treat the first inhabitants of our country very well and there are others in our history that we have done the same to. I think the more we can learn from each other, the better off we can be."
IN ARMY'S RANKS
In 2012, 8,138 Native Americans served in the Army, according to Dr. Betty D. Maxfield, chief, Office of Army Demographics. Of these, 3,705 were active-duty enlisted, 92 were warrant officers and 405 were officers. The Army National Guard had 2,483 enlisted, 56 warrant officers and 159 officers. The Army Reserve had 1,055 enlisted, 22 warrant officers and 161 officers.
Ten years earlier in 2002, 8,598 Native Americans served in the Army, Maxfield said. Of these, 3,665 were active-duty enlisted, 80 were warrant officers and 376 were officers. The Army National Guard had 2,680 enlisted, 39 warrant officers and 139 officers. The Army Reserve had 1,344 enlisted, 14 warrant officers and 261 officers.
Throughout the month of November, installations Army-wide will honor Native Americans with special events like tribal dances, art exhibits, food and historical displays.
"We encourage our Army family to commemorate (Native Americans') contributions that help make our Army what it is today -- Army Strong," said Army leaders in their letter.
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