News: Native Americans honored this November
Story by Sgt. V. Michelle Woods
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - In 1990 President George H. W. Bush declared November as National American Indian Heritage Month. This November marks the 24th anniversary of a time designated to recognize and honor American Indians for their contributions to the nation.
Native Americans have a history with the armed forces dating back to the Revolutionary War. The country’s original inhabitants worked with the early U.S Cavalry as scouts, served as Wind Talkers in World War II, and currently 24 Native Americans have earned the Medal of Honor.
Adding to the long lineage of American Indians who have served in the U.S. military is Sgt. Sarah Barnes, an operations noncommissioned officer with the Special Troops Battalion, 1st Sustainment Brigade.
“From the beginning, Native Americans have always loved their country,” said Barnes. “They’ve always fought for their land and they just have a love for this country even though it wasn’t called America back then.”
“I think it’s important for us to remember that we’re still fighting to keep our country free for everybody,” added Barnes, who comes from the Lakota Sioux Nation. “I just feel like I wouldn’t be doing my part if I wasn’t serving.”
Barnes said her father is Native American but most of her knowledge about her heritage came from her grandmother.
“My grandmother is the one who talked to us a lot about it,” she said. “She would tell us stories and try to keep the culture alive.”
“She’s the one who gave my brother and me our spirit animals,” said Barnes, who is currently deployed to Afghanistan.
She said her grandmother taught her spirit animals are a symbol of nature and being in sync with nature. She said they are like guides who come to you in visions and dreams. The spirit animal matches the human’s personality.
“My grandmother picked the turtle for me because turtles are methodical,” said Barnes. “They’re slow but they think things through. My brother is very spirited and quick to move and that’s why she picked the horse for him.”
Barnes, a nine-year veteran and self-described patriot, comes from a family of service members. Her parents were in the Air Force and her brother is an infantry staff sergeant.
“Native Americans have always been proud of their land, their country and their people,” said Barnes. “I would have fought for my country if I was born back in those days. I will fight for it now; it’s home. There is no country greater than ours.”
“I’m proud to be a Native American and I’m proud to serve the country I love,” added Barnes.