November 14, 2008

Guard celebrates National American Heritage Month

By Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

Chief Red Hawk performs for Soldiers, Airmen and other Virginia Guard employees at the American Indian Heritage Celebration Nov. 6 at Fort Pickett. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — November marks the beginning of National American Indian Heritage Month, and the Virginia National Guard is doing its part to help educate and celebrate the influences Native Americans have had on shaping our nation.

The Virginia National Guard Joint Forces Headquarters Equal Opportunity office held a National American Indian Heritage Celebration to kick off the month Nov. 6 at the Camp Pickett Officers club at Fort Pickett.

The celebration, which was open to all Soldiers, Airmen and Department of Military Affairs employees of the Virginia National Guard, began with opening remarks by Lt. Col. Jeffrey Stewart, State Safety Officer and American Indian Special Emphasis Program Manager. During his opening statement Stewart emphasized the great contributions the Native Americans have made to the United States Military.

“American Indians have served with distinction in the military dating back to the War of 1812. During World War II these brave patriots used their native languages to create an unbreakable oral code,” said Stewart. “The valor and dedication of American Indians is further visible in the decorations received in battle. 25 Medals of Honor, 71 Air Medals, 51 Silver Stars, 47 Bronze Stars, and 34 Distinguished Flying Crosses.”

Following the invocation, Chief Red Hawk, an award-winning recording artist and master storyteller, was introduced. Red Hawk kept the crowd entertained with stories of his life growing up as a Cherokee Indian with his family in a modern-world and a demonstration on Native American drums and a flute.

Red Hawk, a former military serviceman himself, understands the importance of teaching cultural diversity to Soldiers. “Every time you learn about someone else’s culture, you benefit your culture,” said Red Hawk.

Following the musical presentation, attendees were welcomed to taste authentic American Indian cuisine. The food available for sample, provided by a local caterer who researched and prepared the authentic dishes, was turkey, succotash, beans and rice, Indian fry bread (hoe cakes), pumpkin bread, and mint tea.

Those in attendance were able to experience life as seen through the eyes of a culture different their own and see what makes this country truly diverse.

“This year’s program was educational, it was fun, interactive, and it gave a great illustration of this country’s diversity,” said Capt. Antoinette Allen, State Equal Employment Manager. “When our employees start to value the similarities and differences in their co-workers they create a better work environment to accomplish the mission at hand.”

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