During November, National Native American Heritage Month, we commemorate the enduring achievements of American Indians and Alaska Natives and reaffirm the vital role American Indians and Alaska Natives play in enriching the character of our Nation.This Friday, our Nation comes together to honor our veterans and commemorate the legacy of profound service and sacrifice they have upheld in pursuit of a more perfect Union. In Indian Country as well, we pay tribute to our veterans, to the fallen, and to their families.
American Indians and Alaska Natives bravely fought to protect this country as members of our Armed Forces, from the American Revolution to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The courage these veterans have shown, the sacrifices they have made for their families and communities are a powerful reminder of the rich heritage and myriad contributions that American Indians and Alaska Natives have made to our country’s heritage.
Native Americans have played an integral part of the history of our Armed Forces and have defended the security of our Nation. For example, during the First and Second World Wars, Native American code talkers developed unbreakable communication codes to transmit military messages that saved countless lives, using their native languages to help protect and advance the cause of freedom in the world.
Today there are over 137,000 American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans living in the United States. Native Americans have the highest record of service per capita when compared to other groups. Ten percent of these veterans are women. To this day, 24 Native Americans have received the Medal of Honor for their conspicuous gallantry and bravery. This is but a snapshot of the history and legacy of the invaluable service Native Americans veterans have given this country.
Please take a moment this Veteran’s Day to thank a veteran in your community. If you would like to learn more about the contributions Native Americans have made to our Armed Services, please visit the Library of Congress website Willing to Serve: American Indians.
Kimberly Teehee is the White House Domestic Policy Council's Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs.