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    Native American Heritage Month: US Air Force Honor Guard celebrates stellar Airmen

    Native American Heritage Month: US Air Force Honor Guard celebrates stellar Airmen

    Photo By Airman Bill Guilliam | Airman 1st Class Cameron Pledger, Staff Sgt. Wayne Lufkins, and Airman 1st Class Shawn...... read more read more



    Story by Anastazia Clouting 

    Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling

    The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard, the service’s preeminent ceremonial unit, represents all Airmen to the American public, and all Americans to the world. The mantle of representation is especially meaningful to Native American members, who celebrated the dedication of the National Native American Veterans Memorial during Native American Heritage Month this November.

    Guardsmen assigned to the Honor Guard hail from North America’s diverse indigenous communities, including: the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, represented by Airman 1st Class Cameron Pledger; Canada’s Mi’kmaq First Nation, by way of Alaska, represented by Airman 1st Class Shawn Padilla; and the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate tribe of South Dakota, represented by Staff Sgt. Wayne Lufkins, a local of New Mexico.

    Lufkins, who came to the USAF Honor Guard Firing Party after high school, recalled growing up in New Mexico in the shadow of his grandfather, one of the WWII-era Navajo code talkers, who upset Axis attempts to decode secret American military messages.
    Lufkins recalled his family’s contributions to the national interest with pride, adding, “I just want America to know that we [Native Americans] are still here. The pow-wows I attended growing up prepared me for my ceremonial duties honoring fallen warriors today.”

    Padilla, meanwhile, experiences the overlap between his heritage and present through music. His grandfather and grandfather’s brother both excelled in traditional rhythms, interpreted through the guitar, with tunes that continue to resonate with Padilla in his present assignment with the Drill Team.

    “I didn’t get to know my grandfather well, so spending time in Canada with his brother and hearing his music was inspiring to me,” said Padilla. “I’m proud to be part of a First Nation.”

    Reverence for tradition, heroes and ancestors motivates America’s indigenous population, as well as its military. In the Air Force, Pledger, a Firing Party member, says he is encouraged by his grandmother, with whom he speaks daily.

    “Today is her birthday,” he beamed, in a conversation recorded on Halloween. “She called me this morning not to tell me what she was doing to celebrate, but to tell me how proud she is that I am serving on the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard. She’s a leader in our community in Oklahoma, and she emphasizes how much representation matters.”

    The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard is an elite unit comprising approximately 300 ceremonial guardsmen who fulfill more than 3,000 missions per year. Assignments involve honoring the President of the United States, foreign heads of state and senior Department of Defense and Air Force leaders; performing ceremonial duties for Presidential and Joint Service events; wreath-laying ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Air Force Memorial; and conducting military funeral honors at Arlington National Cemetery.



    Date Taken: 11.23.2022
    Date Posted: 11.23.2022 16:27
    Story ID: 433946
    Location: WASHINGTON, DC, US 

    Web Views: 38
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