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NEWS | Nov. 22, 2013

JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Pow Wow celebrates Native American Indian Heritage Month

By Staff Sgt. Corey Baltos Army North Public Affairs

Members of the Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston and surrounding communities gathered Nov. 16 to honor Native American Indian Heritage Month during the 14th annual "Honoring of the Veterans Pow Wow" at the Fort Sam Houston Teen and Youth Center. The theme for the 2013 commemoration was "Guiding our Destiny with Heritage and Traditions."

"It is important to honor and recognize the great contributions Native Americans have made to our nation," said event organizer Sgt. 1st Class Adam Mayo, program manager and equal opportunity advisor for U.S. Army North (Fifth Army).

The pow wow has traditionally been a way to invite the community to celebrate and take part in Native American culture and experience it firsthand.

"A pow wow is a gathering of people to honor and celebrate a specific event," said Erwin De Luna, president of the United San Antonio Pow Wow Inc. "In the past, they were held to celebrate a successful war or hunting party, to celebrate someone's life after they died or to celebrate a birth or marriage."

"Military service is important to us," said De Luna. "As a group, Native Americans have had a higher percentage serve in the military than any other ethnic group in the country."

Rolando Monsivais, an equal opportunity specialist for Joint Base San Antonio, said one of the reasons so many Native Americans choose military service is because the cultural values they learned growing up mirror those in the military.

"There is a direct value link between Native Americans and the Army values," said Monsivais, a member of the Mescalero Apache tribe who served in the Army for 21 years. "I was raised to respect people, do what is right and help people. These are the same values that the Army teaches."

The Native American tradition of service and honor also led others, such as Staff Sgt. Frankie Albert, a nodal network systems operator-maintainer with Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 106th Signal Brigade, to join the military.

"My father was in the Army, and I grew up hearing about my uncles, who served as code talkers during World War II," said Albert, a Navajo.

During World War I and II, the United States used various Native American languages to transmit coded messages around the battlefield. While the enemy was aware of this, they were unable to break the codes due to the difficulty of learning the languages and dialect, plus the languages were not written, only spoken. The most famous group of code talkers were the Navajos in the Pacific theater.

"It is part of our culture to serve and protect the ones we love," Albert said. "We love our nation - and we want to protect it."