Celebrating Native American Heritage Month

Col. Troy Dunn

Col. Troy Dunn

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- November is Native American Heritage Month. Each year, our Air Force reflects on the profound way the first Americans shaped our Air Force's character, culture and attitudes about diversity and inclusion. 

Native American Heritage Month began when the governor of New York established American Indian Day in May 1916. Several other states later endorsed celebrations during the fourth Friday in September, but the celebration did not gain official national recognition until President George H. W. Bush approved a resolution designating November 1990 as National American Indian Heritage Month. 

Similar proclamations including "Native American Heritage Month" and "National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month," have been issued each year since 1994.

Steeped in rich tradition and spiritual values, Native Americans are foundational to our nation having contributed to our communities in art, science, sports, education, law and numerous other fields.

Native Americans served in uniform for more than two centuries, from the Revolutionary War to the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, Defense Department statistics show that Native Americans have the highest per-capita commitment of any ethnic population serving in the armed forces.

To date, 28 Native Americans have received the Medal of Honor. The most recent is Pfc. Charles George, who posthumously received the medal for sacrificing his life to save others during the Korean War. Charles' medal citation reads, "While in the process of leaving the trenches, an enemy soldier hurled a grenade into their midst.
Pfc. George shouted a warning to one comrade, pushed the other soldier out of danger, and, with full knowledge of the consequences, unhesitatingly threw himself upon the grenade, absorbing the full blast of the explosion."

The sacrifice of Native Americans in the face of ultimate danger is a testament to their fighting spirit and devotion. They leave a legacy filled with honor, commitment and service. Their contributions enrich our lives and reinforce our commitment to diversity. We are honored to serve with them and have them part of our Total Force family. 

I encourage all cadets, Airmen and their families to remember the contributions of Native Americans and celebrate our diversity at the Native American Heritage Month Luncheon Nov. 10 at the Arnold Hall Ballroom.

I also encourage us to celebrate diversity every day by recognizing the contributions we all bring to the fight, regardless of our color, creed or faith.

Our diversity enriches our faculty, our staff and the cadet learning environment, as we prepare Academy graduates to lead in our global expeditionary Air Force.   

What could be more worthy of celebration than that?