A new monument on the national mall was recently opened to recognize the military contributions of Native American veterans. The National Native American Veterans Memorial opened in a virtual dedication ceremony on Nov. 11, Veterans Day — and during Native American Heritage Month.

The memorial, which sits on the grounds of The National Museum of the American Indian [NAMI] was commissioned by Congress in 2013 to give “all Americans the opportunity to learn of the proud and courageous tradition of service of Native Americans in the Armed Forces of the United States.”

This will be the first national landmark in Washington, D.C., to focus on the contributions of American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians who have served in the military.

Kevin Gover, director of NAMI, says Native Americans have served in every major military conflict in the U.S. since the Revolutionary War.

“The National Native American Veterans Memorial will serve as a reminder to the nation and the world of the service and sacrifice of Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian veterans. Native Americans have always answered the call to serve, and this memorial is a fitting tribute to their patriotism and deep commitment to this country.”

To coincide with the completion of the memorial, the museum published “Why We Serve: Native Americans in the United States Armed Forces,” a 240-page book that details the history of Native American military service.

Serving in the military at one of the highest rates of any ethnic group, the book explores the many reasons why—from love of home to the expression of warrior traditions says the Smithsonian.

One of those service people is Army vet Allen Hoe, a native Hawaiian who helped conceive the memorial, says this landmark on the national mall represents multiple generations.

“I have always been proud of my service in Vietnam. However, a greater pride is found in our children’s service, their gift of freedom to the world. They are brave, these young men and women who sacrifice daily for the cause of freedom.”

Both of Hoe’s sons followed in his footsteps to the military. His oldest, First Lt. Nainoa K. Hoe, was killed in 2005 at the age of 27 while serving in Mosul, Iraq.

His youngest, Nakoa, is a staff sergeant in the Army.

The elder Hoe told NPR he thinks the memorial can have a great effect on younger Native Americans.

“Maybe some young Native who experiences that memorial for the first time, in 50 years from now, he’ll be the president of the United States. Who knows? Or he’ll be the next great general?” he said.

Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians believes that the memorial marks a starting point for understanding the dimensions of Native peoples’ contribution to the nation’s military history.

Native groups have served in the armed forces at extraordinary high rates, even at times when the federal government was denying them rights, adds Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska).

“I call this a special kind of patriotism — one that’s highly deserving of this memorial. As a marine and a U.S. senator I know this memorial is a longtime coming.”

Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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