By Staff Sgt. Chanelcherie DeMello,November 29, 2010
BASRA, Iraq - In honor of Native American Heritage Month, the 1st Infantry Division, Division, Equal Opportunity team hosted a night of observance and a Native American half-marathon, in Basra, Iraq.
This year's theme, 'Life is Sacred - Celebrate Healthy Native Communities,' brought together the Soldiers and civilians of Basra.
"We celebrate to bring diversity together," said guest speaker Chief Warrant Officer Joseph Walsh, a native of Kansas City, Mo., and a targeting technician with the 1st Inf. Div. Headquarters.
Saturday's 13-mile run presented an opportunity for Soldiers and civilians to show off their Native American pride and support.
"We are fortunate to have Native American Heritage Month," said Walsh. "It gives us an opportunity as Americans to understand what the Native Americans went through."
Although the first "American Indian Day" was declared by the State of New York in 1916, a month long recognition was not instituted until 1990 when George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating that November as "National American Indian Heritage Month." Similar proclamations have been issued every year.
"I don't think there's enough information that gets passed down from generation to generation," Walsh said.
Fortunately, some Native Americans such as the division effects team sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. Wade "Buddy" Wells, a native of Tahlequah, Okla., and a Cherokee with the 1st Inf. Div., DHHB, Effects team, were blessed to grow up in a hometown of their tribal nation.
"The bigger part of my environment was made up of Native Americans," said Wells. "Not only people, but everything around me from art, to music, to powwows and rodeos. I have Cherokee running through my veins and I'm proud."
Throughout history, American Indians and Alaska Natives have been an integral part of the American character.
From Pocahontas to Sacagawea, there are many Native American leaders that have contributed immeasurable to our countries heritage, said Lt. Col. Christine Pacheco, 1st Inf. Div., EO program manager. They have distinguished themselves and succeeded as scholars, artists, entrepreneurs and even servicemen and women, she said.
"Native Americans are forever ingrained in the states, the countries, the rivers, the cities, the mountains and the countless places we call home," said Walsh.
"Through the 'Trail of Tears' we have come a long way," said Wells.