The Defense Department today recognized the contributions that American Indians and Alaska Natives have made in defense of the United States through military service. There are nearly 190,000 American Indian and Alaska native military veterans. Historically, they have the highest record of service per capita when compared to other ethnic groups.
The ceremony, in honor of Veteran's Day and Native American Heritage Month, was hosted by Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition & Technology) David Oliver Jr. It featured performances by military veterans from the Sitka Tribe of Alaska and paid special tribute to the Navajo Code Talkers, who played a key role with the Marine Corps in the Pacific Theater of operations during World War II.
"Let me extend my deepest thanks to all American Indian and Alaska Native veterans for your commitment to defend the land we all call home," said Oliver.
The ceremony followed the Oct. 21 release of a new DoD policy that will guide all interactions with federally recognized tribes. The policy establishes a foundation for developing and strengthening relationships with tribal nations. It is designed to enhance understanding and cooperation between tribal nations and the Defense Department.
In recognizing the service and sacrifice of America's native veterans, Deputy Secretary of Defense John J. Hamre recalled the words of Lakota Chief Standing Bear, who once wrote, "My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes too."
Hamre said, "Today we celebrate those heroes - American Indian and Alaska native men and women who served in uniform and who sometimes paid with their lives for the liberties and freedoms we all enjoy."
Hamre also urged DoD installation commanders to honor American Indian veterans in their communities. Decorated Vietnam veteran, Roger "Red Hawk" Bucholz, a member of the Mdewankanton Band of the Santee Tribe of the Dakota Nation, and Lynn G. Cutler, deputy assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs also spoke at the ceremony.