SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Native Americans have a long and proud history of military service in every major American conflict for over 200 years. According to a Department of Veterans Affairs report, Native Americans have served at higher rates than any other ethnic group in the post-9/11 period.
One such person building upon this legacy is Army Sgt. 1st Class Vincent Orosco, a senior human resource sergeant with the 40th Infantry Division.
“I am Chiricahua-Apache and Pascua-Yaqui,” said Orosco. “My birth name is Storm. My daughters are Beautiful Storm and Graceful Storm.”
Though his birth name is steeped in Native traditions, he goes by Vincent Orosco, taking on his father’s name. Orosco’s mother instilled in him a deep respect for his Native heritage.
In Indigenous communities, women spearhead the families. Native American matrilineal societies trace descent through the mother’s line. Women hold significant roles in decision-making and leadership.
“My mom initially motivated me to know my roots and where I come from,” he said.
At a young age, his mother guided Orosco to culturally significant events like ceremonies, pow-wows, and watching his sisters dance in the community. He quickly learned that in the Native community, a person is defined by their actions.
“My uncle had just joined the Guard a couple of years earlier, so I talked to the recruiter, and that changed the course of my life,” Orosco recalled.
Throughout his 20-year military career, Orosco has led the way for Native Americans. One of these contributions is teaching others how to be a leader.
“What makes [us] successful is what makes us tick,” he said. “... When it comes to my ancestry, I seek to understand it better, to know what’s in my bloodline, and to understand where other people are coming from. That makes me a better leader.”
In 2010, Air Force Maj. Gen. Mary J. Kight, then adjutant general of California, nominated Orosco for the Society of American Indian Government Employees award, which honors Native American service members and veterans in government service. To earn the award, individuals must make substantial contributions to the government and the Native identity while demonstrating exceptional dedication and performance in their roles. He won.
For some Native Americans, their connection to their heritage is deeply personal. For others, it is a matter of family history or cultural identity, but what unites them is a profound sense of pride and strength as they serve their country with commitment and loyalty.
“For the young kids reading this, you are not by yourself,” he said. ”There are others paving the way for you. You can go anywhere in the world as long as you open your mind to the impossible.”