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Why I Serve: Benefits, Advancement Chances "Great"

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2004 – Benefits of being in the military, "especially for married military personnel," and "great opportunities for advancement" have kept Army Master Sgt. Jon Connor serving.

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Pictured when he was a sergeant first class, now-Army Master Sgt. Jon Connor said he serves because of all the "great opportunities to advance." Photo courtesy of Army Master Sgt. Jon Connor

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The descendant of Ojibway Indians recalled walking into an Army recruiter's office nearly 20 years ago to seek his niche in life. He was a 26-year-old college graduate, out of work and disappointed with his prospects in the television broadcasting business in Milwaukee.

Connor called serving in the armed forces "an excellent opportunity to break the cycle of poverty many (American Indians) have come to know growing up and living on reservations. I've always been disappointed why more haven't joined the services."

"I think what I find fascinating about the Army is that no matter what your background is, the limitations of one's success are those placed upon yourself -- not the organization. Whether it's education, mission-related skills, leadership, the military continuously offers this if you want it.

"I joined because I needed to get on with my life and felt I needed to do something to put my degrees to good use," said Connor, who holds an associate degree in television production and a bachelor's degree in journalism.

His half-Indian father served in the European theater during World War II, attaining the rank of corporal and earning the Soldiers Medal.

"Other family members on my dad's side served too," he noted. Over the years, Connor found information on tombstones in graveyards about his descendants serving in the military in the 1800s.

Connor said he supports having November's American Indian Heritage Month as "a great way to foster a better understanding and appreciation."

"To understand American Indians, one must read about them prior to the European settlers coming to North and South America. Then the real Indian lifestyle can be found. Everything else since is simply a reaction and then later pure survival measures taken until the near genocide of the race by the late 1800s."

Connor was one of 15 servicemembers of Indian descent at a Sept. 23 White House breakfast honoring the opening of the American Indian Museum on Washington's National Mall.

"It was a real honor to be in the presence of Indian people from throughout the country during my visit to the White House," he said. Connor called it "an absolute thrill" when President Bush recognized the group and the estimated 185 attendees "turned and applauded for what seemed eternity. I never was honored by Indian people before, so it was a great, great honor."

The senior noncommissioned officer has served as an editor, assistant editor and photojournalist stateside and overseas, including a stint as staff writer and photojournalist for European Stars and Stripes.

Connor recently moved from the Army Chief of Public Affairs Office at the Pentagon, he was the Army's newspaper program chief, to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Public Affairs Office to work in media and community relations.

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Why I Serve

Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Master Sgt. Jon Connor, an Ojibway Indian, models a vest- like garment that's worn by men during ceremonies. His grandmother made the garment in the late 19th century. Connor said the garment is appraised at about $60,000. Photo by Chris Connor  
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