ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- Chelaine Knudsen, director, Development Trust Fund for the Yankton Sioux Tribe, spoke during the National Native American Heritage Month observance, here, Nov. 28.

Knudsen, a native of the Yankton Sioux Reservation in Lake Andes, South Dakota, talked about how David Medicine Bear, her great-grandfather and a World War II Army veteran, raised her until she was 16.

This year's theme is "Standing Together."

"Military is very, very strong in our family," she said. "It's either, you are going to go to college or you are going to go into the military."

Knudsen talked about how she grew up surrounded by veterans including her father, both grandfathers, great-grandfathers, and five uncles who served in each branch of the military.

In high school, she enlisted into the U.S. Army National Guard, attended basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and advanced Individual Training at Fort Lee, Virginia.

She trained to become an automated logistical specialist and deployed in 2004 to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Knudsen explained how not only her family but also her entire reservation holds the military and all veterans in high esteem, largely because of their traditional values dating back to Native American warrior societies.

She said military service is important to her culture and family.

"It's like something innate," she said. "It really wasn't anything for us to decide; it was something we were proud and honored to do."

In her remarks, Knudsen talked about how Native Americans have always had a genuine heart. In fact, her tribe is called "The Land of the Friendly People," a motto depicted on many of their belongings back home.

Knudsen said her people's welcoming values and respect for others are central to their community.

Maj. Gen. Duane Gamble, commanding general, U.S. Army Sustainment Command and RIA senior commander, attended the observance.

Gamble presented Knudsen and Emily VanWaardhuizen, interim director, Hauberg Indian Museum, Rock Island, each with an appreciation plaque for their event support.

Sgt. 1st Class Chrystal Yazzie, who served as the emcee, ASC, delivered the closing remarks, thanking Knudsen for her outstanding service to the Native American community and the country.

"We may be from different cultures and backgrounds, but we are all here for a single purpose," she said. "To support the United States."

November is Native American Heritage Month, which was formally established by President George H.W. Bush in 1990 and has been observed annually.

This month's observance is intended to raise awareness about cultural challenges and educate people about how they can be overcome.

ASC provided food sampling for the observance. Native American artifacts were also on display to educate personnel on the Native American way of life.