REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama -- The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command hosted the Team Redstone National American Indian Heritage Month Observance Nov. 29 at the Sparkman Center's Bob Jones Auditorium.

National American Indian Heritage Month celebrates and honors American Indians and Alaska natives and how they have enriched the history of the United States of America. The theme for this year's National American Indian Heritage observance is "Standing Together."

"Native Americans have fought in every war since America's founding and have taken their rightful place as heroes in our nation's history," said Lt. Gen. James H. Dickinson, USASMDC/ARSTRAT commanding general. "It is fitting this year's national celebration theme 'Standing Together' acknowledges our intertwined heritage, and again gives us the opportunity to recognize Native Americans who have and continue to honorably serve our Army.

"In the 242-year history of the American Soldier, there are many stories of Native American heroism above and beyond the call of duty -- stories rooted in deep and abiding patriotism, sacrifice, selfless service to our great nation," he added. "This is by the fact that 32 Native Americans have been awarded our nation's highest military award, the Congressional Medal of Honor. As we reflect on their actions and heroism, we remember too, their unique and important heritage. These men recognized what generations of American Soldiers know: no matter your skin color, religion, ethnicity, gender or ancestry, we are brothers and sisters on the battlefield."

Dickinson added that America's diversity has always been one of our great strengths, as people of different backgrounds and cultures share their unique talents and perspective. He said that our Army too, is stronger for its diversity and we must ensure that every member of the force has the opportunity to reach their full potential.

"For whatever our differences may be, our common values and love of country unite us," Dickinson said. "We must continue to strive for equality and dignity for every individual, no matter where they come from, what they look like, or how they practice their faith.

"In keeping with the proud traditions of our Army, once again, let us take time to reflect on the contributions of Native Americans to America's Army," he added. "It is my hope, and a hope shared as well by those serving our nation, that each one of us can honor our Native American Soldiers and veterans when we say, 'We support our warriors.'"

Since 1990, the United States has officially designated the month of November as a time to reflect on the traditions and accomplishments of those belonging to the 567 federally recognized Native American and Alaskan Native nations.

National Native American Heritage Month begins Nov. 1 each year to celebrate and recognize the accomplishments of this country's original inhabitants, explorers and settlers. Throughout the Army's history, Native Americans have served valiantly and with distinction in times of peace and war.

Native Americans have fought in every military conflict in our nation's history. More than 8,000 Native Americans served in World War I and more than 25,000 served in WWII. More than 26,000 Native Americans currently serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, making up 1.2 percent of the military population.

Historically, Native Americans have the highest record of military service per capita when compared to other ethnic groups.

For the event, Principal Chief Stan Long, Cherokee Tribe of Northeast Alabama, was the keynote speaker.

"As an American Indian, I love this country. As an American Indian, I am very proud of our country," Long said. "Our warrior society in our tribes represent the pride and the passion for defending this great land. We love this country, we love who we are and we don't back down."
Long said that American Indians still know who they are, they know what their history is and they stand on that history today

"Today we honor American Indians and their contributions to the founding of our nation," Long said. "I am honored to participate and I hope everyone takes away that the stereotype of the American Indian is not reality.

"American Indians are all across the country and I wanted to explore other areas of history that may not be known to the general population, such as the influence of Native Americans on the establishment of America's Constitution," he added. "When speaking with audiences, I always take away excitement and joy because I see people who have fun learning."