2020 American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month

2020 American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month

Home : Features : 2020 : American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month

Staff Sgt. Joseph Cavender

640th Regional Training Institute, Utah National Guard

Cavender, 36, a 14-year veteran of the Guard, says "the great unifying truth of the military is its ability to bring people of all backgrounds together to achieve a common goal. Celebrating the diversity of our troops in truth highlights the success of our organization in achieving a fighting force singularly dedicated to the cause of defending America against those who resent that common vision."

Staff Sgt. Justin Clark

141st Military Intelligence Battalion, Utah National Guard

Clark, 41, joined the military in 2009 and says members of his family have always answered the call when America is in conflict. "The opportunity to serve and the opportunity to honor the Native heritage really is an indicator of the sort of magnanimous nation the United States is. It wasn’t long ago my ancestors were engaged in armed resistance against the Army I now serve in."

Sgt. 1st Class Michael Keith Davis

63rd Civil Support Team, Oklahoma National Guard

Davis, 42, has served 24 years and has roots in the Osage and Pawnee tribes. "The older I get the more important being Native American becomes. When I joined, I was embarrassed when people would ask me about my heritage because I didn't know a lot."

Master Sgt. Rasia Smith Delin

Joint Force Headquarters, Louisiana National Guard

Delin, 38, transferred from the Air Force Reserves to the Air National Guard after Hurricane Katrina. A member of the Houma Indian tribe, she says this observance "means to me that America is embracing and recognizing the diversity we have here. Striving to treat and recognize everyone equally."

Senior Airman Cari Hess

180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard

Hess, 21, of the Ohio National Guard's 180th Fighter Wing, is a member of the Comanche Nation. "This observance means a lot to me and my family because our tribe was the last group to surrender at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1875. When we surrendered we lost the identity as 'Warriors,' and this month shows us that, even though we surrendered, we are not forgotten about but in fact honored."

Staff Sgt. Derrick Jones

118th Transportation Company, Utah National Guard

Jones, 35, is proud of the impact the Navajo Code Talkers had in World War II. "It provides me a warm fuzzy feeling deep down, knowing that my service carries on that part of my culture and family’s history."

Staff Sgt. Christopher Keel

Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Utah National Guard

Keel, 48, who has served for 25 years, says the nation is a melting pot that "affords us all the blessing of unity as Americans. I would hope to see more official observances like the Fourth of July where we all come together as Americans to celebrate how our seeming differences are enrichments and unifiers rather than stumbling blocks and barriers."

Master Sgt. Mary Lohnes

139th Airlift Wing’s Communications Flight, Missouri Air National Guard

Lohnes has served 30 years in the Army, Army National Guard and Active Guard Reserve. A member of the Spirit Lake Nation in Fort Totten, North Dakota, she has come to appreciate the similarities of the Native culture and the military. "Belonging to a group that is unique (as in my tribe and with the 139th AW), empowers me to live the Air Force values: service before self; integrity first; excellence in all we do; and as much, to be humble and serve others.”

Staff Sgt. Martin Ochoa

118th Wing, Tennessee Air National Guard

Ochoa, 37, an analyst with the 118th Wing, is from the Mescalero Apache nation. He says this recognition "is a great way to teach and show a piece of our heritage to the rest of the nation who may not understand it or may be timid to ask about it."

Tech. Sgt. Jeffery Parker

116 Logistic Readiness Squadron, Georgia Air National Guard

Parker, 52, who has served eight years in the Marines and 20 years in the Air National Guard, says "it’s nice to be recognized in a positive light. So much negativity in the world today about race and who’s important and so forth. In my opinion, everyone is important and when you can showcase that in a positive setting, I’m all about it."

Tech. Sgt. Crystal Ralston

181st Intelligence Wing, Indiana Air National Guard

Ralston has served in the Army and Air National Guard in Missouri and Indiana. She says this month's observation is an opportunity to teach her son about their Cherokee, Apache and Paiute ancestry. "Observing American Indian Heritage means to take pride in my roots so that I can better understand and learn about my heritage."

Capt. James Redhouse Jr.

2/222 Field Artillery Battalion, Utah National Guard

Redhouse, 37, has served 20 years and is the great-grandson of a Navajo Code Talker. "I am grateful that my story is being told. I hope everyone knows that it isn’t the Soldier who serves; their families and loved ones served alongside them."

Sgts. Bridget and Lyndell Shawnee

Joint Force Headquarters and Bravo Battery 160th Field Artillery, Oklahoma Army National Guard

Bridget (Navajo) and Lyndell (Absentee Shawnee of Oklahoma and Quawpaw Tribes) welcome the focus on Native Americans in the National Guard. "Any opportunity to initiate dialogue and enhance cross-cultural awareness among military members, the federal workforce, and their families is a blessing and will only strengthen the bond between this cultural group and others" in the National Guard Bureau, they said.

Col. Todd Stevens

67th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Nebraska Army National Guard

Stevens, 51, has served 33 years and swore all three of his children into the Nebraska Guard. A member of the Ogallala Sioux tribe out of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, he says "it’s important for people to recognize their heritage, and have those types of connections, so they understand how they got here, where they come from, and some of the driving factors in what their makeup is as a person."

Master Sgt. Charles Anthony Wheeler

138th Fighter Wing, Oklahoma Air National Guard

Wheeler, 44, is proud of his heritage as a member of the Osage, Pawnee and Cherokee tribes. "I think everyone should be proud of where they came from and should want to learn about the ways of their people before them."