FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - Native Americans have served in the U.S. military across major conflicts for more than 200 years, often surpassing enlistment rates of other demographics. From the Revolutionary War to present day, American Indians and Alaska Natives have played a vital role in defense and preservation of our nation.
Like Gen. Ely S. Parker, a Seneca Nation member who served as Ulysses S. Grant’s military secretary during the Civil War, many Native Americans have served with high honor and distinction making significant contributions that changed the course of history.
At U.S. Army installation Fort Campbell Kentucky, Garrison Commander Col. Andrew Jordan, a member of the Cherokee Nation, exemplifies commitment and leadership of Native Americans who serve at U.S. military installations throughout the world.
Jordan's journey, similar to that of many Native Americans, reflects a storied tradition of service and sacrifice. He enlisted in 1995, serving in the Oklahoma Army National Guard while pursuing his education at Oklahoma State University. Graduating in 1998 as a Top Ten Graduate, he received a commission in the Infantry as a Distinguished Military Graduate
As a member of the elite Special Forces, a multi-purpose force for high-priority operational targets of strategic importance, Jordan’s assignments include several leadership roles at Special Operations Command Central and Chief of Staff for the Special Operations Joint Task Force-Iraq; deploying to Iraq to establish Special Operations Command’s task force to counter ISIS.
Throughout Jordan’s military career, his Native American roots fueled his drive to succeed as a leader. Within Native American tradition, it is held that good leaders are confident in their indigenous identity and understanding and in following traditional practices to preserve cultural heritage. Jordan explained his own dedication to preserving his heritage as he spoke of attending powwows and other Native American events and exhibits. “Protecting and preserving our Native American heritage and especially supporting our Native American service members and veterans is critical to carrying on the legacy of those that have gone before.”
"My ancestral roots trace back to the Cherokee Nation through my mother's side of the family. Specifically, my maternal grandfather was a member of the tribe through his mother," Jordan explained. "Growing up in Oklahoma, it's quite common for people to have Native American heritage due to the historical settlement of Oklahoma as Indian territory in the 1800s."
Today, Native American men and women continue a legacy of service and sacrifice, enlisting in the U.S. military at a higher rate than any other demographic. They contribute to the strength and diversity of the armed forces, embodying the values that define it.
According to the National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA), during the Vietnam War, of the 42,000 Native American service members who served during the conflict, an astounding 90% were volunteers. From the legendary Navajo Code Talkers, who devised an unbreakable code using their indigenous language during World War II, to the 400 Native Code Talkers who played a critical role in the Pacific theater, Native Americans have displayed ingenuity and resourcefulness with remarkable impact and outcomes.
"Recognizing the legacy of Native American service members highlights their essential role in safeguarding freedom and national security, showcasing the diversity that strengthens our military and society," Jordan said.
"Fort Campbell’s commitment to being good stewards of the land and culture is commendable," he said. "Understanding the history of how this land was provided to the United States government to create Fort Campbell reminds us to appreciate and preserve what we have inherited."
The recent repatriation of Cherokee remains at the Fort Campbell POW cemetery exemplifies the enduring legacy of Cherokee military members and their deep connection to the land they defended. The process honors ancestral ties and recognizes the resilience and cultural heritage of Native American service members.
“Through honoring their legacy, we celebrate the vibrant tapestry that defines the U.S. military and reinforces our commitment to a united and diverse nation,” Jordan said. "The respect for veterans and their service within Native American communities is profound. Throughout history, they have exemplified the warrior ethos, playing essential roles in defending the United States in every conflict."
Jordan will relinquish command of Fort Campbell Garrison, August 16, after nearly 26 years of active-duty service.
For more information on the repatriation of Cherokee remains at the Fort Campbell German POW Cemetery, visit https://www.army.mil/article/269040.