KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
As the United States celebrates National American Indian and Alaskan Native Heritage Month in November, the New Mexico Air National Guard acknowledges the contributions these Airmen make to their units.
Six NMANG Airmen recently got together to talk about their service to help educate their fellow Airmen on how their upbringing and culture influenced their decision to join and be successful in the military.
“I am from the Navajo Nation. It is the second largest tribe in the USA, and the reservation is bigger than the state of West Virginia. I grew up in the four corners area. The majority of my ‘growing up’ was in Oak Springs, Ariz. Growing up in a utility scarcity environment played a vital role in building my character to be more optimistic and humble,” Master Sgt. Willis Lynch said.
“The terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001 is what got me into the military. I enlisted after I graduated high school in 2002. As far as my upbringing, it was mainly preached that I don't stay home,” said Lynch. “It is unique and an honor to be Native American and serve in the military because it gives me the opportunity to protect the land I originated from as well as serve those who live in it.”
The Native American Indian culture is distinct and its values are part of its foundation.
When Lynch was asked about the specifics of the Navajo Nation, he said, “Our kinship is organized into clans. Each individual of the Navajo Nation has four clans—two from their mother and two from their father. Also, the most important and valued individual in our hierarchy are the elders. They are the people who pass down the Navajo language and life experiences, both good and bad.”
Staff Sgt. Shanell Halona, also from the Navajo Nation, said, “We believe in taking care of our families and elders. It is a royal place where people do not have access to things in the city like running water.” Halona’s upbringing and culture inspired her to join the Air Force since there were not a lot of opportunities at home.
“I joined the Air Force to provide a future where I could grow through opportunities in a career, and as a kid I remember seeing airplanes flying over home all the time and was curious about where they were going,” Halona said
It is during this month when we celebrate and honor the contributions made by America’s indigenous people and their long and rich history in defending and fighting for the sovereignty of this land.