News: WASP Recognizes Contributions, Celebrates Native American Culture
By Petty Officer 1st Class Andrew J. McCord
CARIBBEAN SEA — Sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp assembled in the Hangar Bay, Nov. 21, to help celebrate the Native American Heritage Month Observance.
Along with guest speakers and a discussion of contributions to the military by Native Americans, there was a ceremonial cake-cutting and an ice cream social to help celebrate a culture that's been on North America much longer than the United States of America has been a country.
Event Mistress of Ceremonies Airman Tigar Lily O'Neil, aviation support equipment technician, who grew up on a reservation in Covelo, Calif., discussed her life experiences and noted the importance of celebrating the diverse cultures that make up the military, including that of Native Americans.
"The military has a lot of different cultures, and even though the smaller ones sometimes get overlooked; it's nice to get noticed," said O'Neil. "Being here makes me more proud of who I am, and it's important to recognize culture — where it came from, and to see where it came from before adapting to what it is now."
Wasp Commanding Officer Capt. Lowell D. Crow noted during his remarks that Native Americans have played a critical role in American history, particularly as important players in U.S. conflicts.
"Native Americans have served valiantly in our armed services," said Crow. They have fought from the American Revolution to combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have fought valiantly in defense of our nation as dedicated service men and women."
Wasp Repair Division Officer Ens. Jodi Biermann, the keynote speaker for the event, pointed to the strength and resiliency inherent in Native American culture as key to the successes Native Americans have had in the military.
"The fighting spirit of the warrior is a rarity because of its universal presence in all Native American cultures," said Biermann. "The strong cultural values of this nation's indigenous people have boldly positioned them into the fighting core of today's military. Their willingness to engage the enemy in battle and fight for their tribe and homeland is a quality that has been unmistakably demonstrated by the courageous deeds performed by today's Native Americans in combat."
The first American Indian Day in a state was declared on the second Saturday in May 1916 by the governor of New York. Several other states followed suit that same year on the fourth Friday of September. It wasn't until 1990 that President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as National American Indian Heritage Month, and similar proclamations under various names have been issued each year since 1994.
"The Native American warrior of today's military embodies and demonstrates unadulterated traits," said Biermann. "These traits — strength, honor, pride, devotion, and wisdom — not only make up the heart of an honorable culture, but come to embody the ethos of the ideal American war hero."
Wasp is currently deployed on Southern Partnership Station-Amphib 2009 with Destroyer Squadron 40 and embarked Security Cooperation Marine Air-Ground Task Force. SPS is part of the Partnership of the Americas Maritime Strategy that focuses on building interoperability and cooperation in the region to meet common challenges.