WIESBADEN, Germany – November is Native American Heritage month which provides, those within the military community, opportunity to recognize and express appreciation for the sacrifices of Native American service members, veterans, civilians and family members.
Hosted by the 56th Artillery Command and U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Military Equal Opportunity advisors, this year’s annual observance took place at the Stronger Together Café on Clay Kaserne, Nov. 18.
In celebrating Native American Heritage Month, the Army recognizes not only the significance of individual contributions, but also the value of a diverse and inclusive environment.
Embracing and celebrating diversity makes the U.S. Army stronger, ensuring that every member of the force is given the opportunity to achieve his or her full potential.
“The historical contributions from Native Americans have reached very far and wide,” said U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Commander Col. David Mayfield.
The Army story cannot be told without reflecting on the remarkable contributions made by Native Americans, who have a long history of serving with distinction.
Throughout the history of the U.S. Army, Native American Indian and Alaska Native military members have a legacy marked by dedication, courage and selfless service.
The relationship has not always been friendly and productive, Native Americans were often the subject of unfair and inhuman treatment during the early history of our nation and the U.S. Army.
Despite this, Native Americans have a proud and storied history defending the United States.
When threatened, American natives have long answered the call to defend this nation against a common enemy. From serving as trackers and scouts in the fledgling continental Army to the Civil War, WWI and II, Korean and Vietnam War to the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The use of Native American code talkers in WWII was critical to success in the Pacific. Without the service of Navajo Code Talkers the war in the Pacific may have lasted longer or had a different outcome.
Today, more than 9,000 Native Americans representing 574 recognized tribes serve in the total Army force. Additionally, American Indians and Alaskan Natives comprise more than 150,000 veterans.
Remembering these great warriors - past and present - who served and who continue to serve, creates an enduring legacy that inspires and blazes as trail for future generations.
Trailblazers such as Col. Nicole Aunapu Mann and Staff Sgt. Conrad Begaye.
Col. Mann, who served as a U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18 test pilot, is a member of the Wailacki tribe from the Round Valley Indian Tribes of Northern California and has flown in support of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mann is the first woman of America Indian descent to fly to the international space station as a NASA crew member.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Conrad Begaye, an infantryman in the 75th Ranger Regiment and a member of the Navajo Nation, was awarded the Silver Star for his actions when his unit was ambushed by enemy forces in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, November 2007.
Guest speaker Stanton Falling, a member of the Cherokee Nation, grew up on the Navajo Reservation. While growing up on the reservation, he developed his passion for the study of music which evolved into a career playing the French Horn.
Falling’s career would span almost three decades until his retirement in 2022 from the Hessen State Theater Orchestra in Wiesbaden.
Native Americans, have gone from “(…) defending their land from the U.S. Army to defending their land with the U.S. Army,” said Falling.
“Since the 9-11 attacks, almost 19% of all Native American have served in the armed forces. If you were to visit any one of the many Indian reservations you would find a prominent memorial to their tribal veterans,” added Falling.
“They (Native Americans) are proud of their tradition of service to the country.”
That tradition continues today.