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Native American Indian Heritage Month

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Thomas
  • 169th Medical Group
Every November, the Department of Defense celebrates Native American Indian Heritage Month. Native American Indians have served with distinction in United States military actions for over 200 years. During World War II, 13 percent of the Native American population served in the United States military. In the 20th century, five Native Americans received the military's highest honor, the Medal of Honor. The Medal of Honor is given for military heroism, "above and beyond the call of duty". These warriors exhibited extraordinary bravery in the face of the enemy and in two cases, made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

1st Lt. Jack C. Montgomery, a Cherokee from Okla., served with the 45th Infantry Division Thunderbirds. Near Padiglione, Italy, his rifle platoon was under fire by three echelons of enemy forces, Feb. 22, 1944. Montgomery single-handedly attacked all three positions, taking prisoners in the process.

1st Lt. Ernest Childers, a Creek from Okla., served with the 45th Infantry Division. Childers received the Medal of Honor for heroic action in 1943 when, up against machine gun fire, he and eight men charged the enemy. While suffering a broken foot in the assault, Childers ordered covering fire and advanced up the hill. He single-handedly killed two snipers, silenced two machine gun nests and captured an enemy mortar observer.

2nd Lt. Van Barfoot, a Choctaw from Miss., served with in the 45th Infantry Division Thunderbirds. During the breakout from Anzio to Rome, Barfoot knocked out two machine gun nests and captured 17 German soldiers, May 23, 1944. Later that same day, he repelled a German tank assault, destroyed a Nazi fieldpiece and while returning to camp, carried two wounded commanders to safety.

Cpl. Mitchell Red Cloud Jr., a Winnebago from Wis., served in Company E, 19th Infantry Regiment in Korea. Red Cloud was on a ridge guarding his company command post when he was surprised by Chinese-Communist forces, Nov. 5, 1950. He sounded the alarm and stayed in his position, firing his automatic rifle at point-blank range to hold back the assault. This gave his company time to consolidate their defenses. After being severely wounded by enemy fire, he refused assistance and continued firing upon the enemy until he was fatally wounded.

Pfc. Charles George, a Cherokee from N.C., was killed, Nov. 30, 1952. During a battle in Korea, George threw himself upon a grenade and smothered it with his body. In doing so, he sacrificed his own life but saved the lives of his comrades.

During the Month of November, remember the sacrifices that Native Americans have made for the United States of America.