KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – The 173rd Fighter Wing welcomed members of the Klamath Tribes and others of American Indian descent to a ceremony during Native American heritage month.
Local members of the Klamath Tribes and numerous former and currently serving military members attended the Indigenous Veteran Resiliency Event Nov. 6.
The event coordinator, 2nd Lt. Jennifer Hall, 173rd FW health promotion coordinator, said the ceremony “honors those of you in this room that are currently serving and those that have served, those serving across the country and beyond, and for those that have fallen.”
The ceremony highlighted Native Americans’ service to the United States dating back to the Civil War.
One example was Gen. Ely S. Parker, a member of the Seneca Nation who served as Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s military secretary during the Civil War, said Col. Micah Lambert, the 173rd Fighter Wing vice commander.
“American Indians serve in the United States Armed Forces at five times the national average,” Lambert said.
Hall said that since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, “19% of all American Indians have served in the armed forces,” and 20% of Native Americans who serve are women.
Native Americans served in many iconic military moments, including at Iwo Jima. Marine Cpl. Ira Hayes of the Pima people was one of the six Marines who famously erected the U.S. flag there, Lambert said.
He added that 29 Native American service members have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest honor the country bestows upon its military heroes.
Six currently serving 173rd Fighter Wing Airmen of American Indian descent were honored, including Tech. Sgt. Kanee Chocktoot of the Klamath and Modoc Tribes, Chief Master Sgt. Ryan Rainville of the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribes, and Tech. Sgt. Angela Brown of the Piute Tribe.
Crew chief Staff Sgt. Robert Holster of the Choctaw Nation explained how he commissioned nose art for his Kingsley F-15 Eagle, derived from the first code talkers of WWI.
He explained that although the Navajo Code Talkers of WWII are better known, it was during WWI that the Choctaw language helped American forces hide communications from the enemy, thus paving the way for their impact in WWII.
The ceremony concluded with a drum circle performed by the Klamath Tribes, a tradition dating back several thousand years and shared by many tribes across the nation. The Klamath Tribes brought the drum to the base and performed “Soldier Boy,” a patriotic song in homage to those who have chosen to serve.