JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
The morning reveille is a common occurrence at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, but the sound of drum beats and the soft chants of gourd dancers "blessing" the ceremony Sept. 26 at building 100's flagpole was anything but the traditional greeting to a new day.
Accompanied by the gourd dance, the American Warrior Veteran Honor Guard performed the reveille ceremony as the kick off to a series of events across the state highlighting Texas American Indian Heritage Day.
The event consisted of four separate dances honoring Native American heritage in Texas.
During the dance, Maj. Gen. Leonard Patrick, Air Education and Training Command vice commander; Chief Master Sgt. Jimmie Morris, 340th Flying Training Group command chief; and Fil Jimenez, 502nd Air Base Wing technical director, representing officers, enlisted and civilians respectfully, stepped into the circle and were presented with a ceremonial rattle and fan.
"In 2013, the Texas state legislature passed House Bill 174, authorizing this day's celebrations, which was signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry," Edward Blauvelt, JBSA-Randolph Native American Heritage Committee chairman, said. "This event recognizes the many historical, cultural and social contributions our American Indian communities and leaders have made to this great state of ours."
A variety of members served as gourd dancers, including active-duty, retired and former military members, police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and local community leaders.
According to Department of Defense archives, about 108,000 Native Americans have served in U.S. conflicts since World War I, with present-day numbers at more than 31, 500 Native Americans on active or reserve duty status.
"Native Americans have served the United States in the military for more than 200 years," Capt. Ben Benson, Air Education and Training Command operations research analyst, said. "They served in various roles such as scouts, infantry, sailors, code talkers, security forces, aircraft and vehicle maintenance and explosive disarmament."
Maintaining a warrior culture rooted deep in Native American history, the gourd dance and reveille ceremony highlighted the "warriors" of the present-day U.S. military and its veterans.
"A warrior is a person who serves, a person who sacrifices themselves for the good of others," Blauvelt said. "They feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe the cold and when necessary, stand as protection for their people."
As the drum beats of the "flag song" greeted a new day at JBSA-Randolph, warriors adorned with feathers, beads and Air Force uniforms joined together in a salute to the flag that has led them both to defend their nation throughout American history.