Native American Tribe Supports Troops, Families
By Sara Moore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 11, 2008 During World War I, the Choctaw Nation began a long tradition of service to the country when a group of Choctaws volunteered as “code talkers,” sending messages for the military in a code derived from their own language to confuse German spies.
Today, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma continues that tradition of service, extending it to include support of its members and employees who serve in the National Guard and reserves and families of military members. The organization is being recognized for its efforts with the 2008 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.
Serving in the military and supporting others who serve come naturally for the people of the Choctaw Nation because they have strong ties to the country and are passionate about protecting their families and homes, said Gregory Pyle, chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
“There’s a basic principle we have here that you always support your military,” Pyle said. “They’re literally fighting for our freedom, and many lose their lives, so it’s the least we can do.”
The Choctaw Nation is sovereign, and therefore exempt from legal requirements to support its employees in the National Guard and reserves, but it voluntarily complies with those laws. The Choctaw Nation provides full pay and benefits for its Guard and reserve members and provides emergency assistance for their families while military members are on deployment.
The Choctaw Nation also supports its members who have served in the military with its veterans advocacy program, and it supports local military units. Last year during the holiday season, the Choctaw Nation chartered 14 buses to provide free round-trip transportation for Oklahoma National Guard members training at Fort Bliss, Texas, so they could spend time with their families.
It’s this kind of support that motivated Anton Pavlovsky, Pyle’s son-in-law, to nominate the Choctaw Nation for the Freedom Award. Pavlovsky served in the Army Reserve and was deployed to Iraq in 2003. During his deployment, the Choctaw Nation sent him many care packages, he said, and even sent crucial equipment for his unit. Pavlovsky was a truck driver whose unit transported heavy equipment, and in the searing desert temperatures, he and his colleagues found their gloves wearing out very quickly. When Pyle heard about their situation, he coordinated an effort to send over six cases of gloves.
The Choctaw Nation also has sent to Iraq walkie-talkies to help units communicate in the thick dust and an ultrasound machine to help troops in the field detect shrapnel. The Choctaw Nation also provides mailing service, complete with paid postage, for anyone who wants to send a care package to troops serving overseas.
“Chief Pyle and the people of the Choctaw Nation are amazing patriots,” Pavlovsky said. “They have done so much throughout the course of this conflict.”
Pavlovsky said that, as a family member, he has seen firsthand the willingness of the Choctaw Nation to support not only its members, but also family members and friends who serve in the military. He specifically praised Pyle for his dedication to the troops.
“He truly is a person who wakes up in the morning and goes to bed at night thinking about the soldiers serving our country,” Pavlovsky said of the chief.
For his part, Pyle said that he and the rest of the Choctaw Nation are just doing what they feel is their duty, and they were very surprised to be recognized for their efforts. “It’s a huge honor; … it was overwhelming for many of our tribal members,” he said. “It’s nice for the Indian people that have fought for so many years to be recognized.”
Pavlovsky said he was thrilled to hear the Choctaw Nation would receive the Freedom Award. When he heard the news, he had a “grin from ear to ear,” he said.
“I think it’s amazing,” Pavlovsky said. “They truly are doing wonderful things for military members and veterans in Oklahoma and in the area.”
The Choctaw Nation will continue to do what it can to support military members and their families, Pyle said. “Whatever comes up, we’re happy to help,” he said.
The Choctaw Nation will be honored along with 14 other companies receiving the Freedom Award in a ceremony Sept. 18 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center here. The Freedom Award was instituted in 1996 under the auspices of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve to recognize exceptional support from the employer community.