Without question, Native Americans are the highest race per capita that joins the military. According to Selective Service, if every race enlisted at the rate of Native Americans in the 1940’s the draft would not have been necessary.
In another gesture of reverence to our Native Veterans on Veterans Day, we at ICTMN are recognizing 5 Notable Native figures who served their country as a member of the armed forces.
As the actor who portrayed Chief Big Bear in the Lone Ranger, Saginaw Grant (Sac-n-Fox, Iowa, and Otoe-Missouria Nations) has been an icon for decades having worked in such productions as Breaking Bad, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, My Name is Earl and much more. In July of 2014, Grant received a lifetime achievement award for his contributions to the industry.
Born at an Indian Hospital in Pawnee Oklahoma in 1936, Grant is a proud veteran of the United States Marine Corps who served during the Korean War.
U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major Julia Kelly
Entering into the Army on July 31, 1981 as an Ammunition Specialist Private, 89B, PVT/E1, U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major Julia Kelly (Crow) retired October 31, 2010 as a Command Sergeant Major, 89B, CSM/E9 with 28 years of service.
According to Kelly, “I have had two Combat tours to Iraq, and Special assignments to Honduras, Kuwait and Singapore. I was assigned to many Leadership positions culminating with my last assignment as the Command Sergeant Major for the 299th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.”
In addition to her service, Kelly is also a member of the Native American Woman Warriors Color Guard.
“History provides many stories of Native women who fought to protect their lands and home. There are stories of Native women who went out on War Parties and were recognized by the Chief of their accomplishments. I joined to bring awareness that Native women are warriors also.”
Van Thurman Barfoot
Army Colonel Van Thurman Barfoot (Choctaw) is a WWII veteran and a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. Born in 1919 in Edinburgh Mississippi, at the age of 25, then Sergeant Barfoot set out alone to flank three German Machine gun positions. He advanced through a live minefield, and took out the positions with hand grenades. He later grabbed a bazooka to destroy one of three advancing tanks and killed three soldiers. He then continued to help two wounded comrades traverse 1,700 yards to safety and captured 17 German POW’s.
In 2009, Col. Barfoot made headlines after erecting a 21-foot flagpole at his Sussex Square residence without the permission of his homeowners association. He refused to remove the flag which garnered the support of state officials and Senators. Col. Barfoot later died at age 92 in 2012.
Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (ret.)
Ben Nighthorse Campbell whose Cheyenne name ‘Sunka Wakan Ahape’ translates to “Horse Goes at Night or Nighthorse” served as the U.S. Senator for the state of Colorado from 1993 to 2005. In 1951, Campbell joined the Air Force and served in Korea during the Korean War. Serving as an air policeman, he received the Korean Service Medal and the Air Medal.
After his service Campbell was part of the US Judo Olympics Team in 1964. During his political career and after serving two years as Senator, Campbell won re-election to the Senate by what was then the largest margin in Colorado history. He went on to serve until 2005.
Juanita J. Mullen
After serving for 20 years in the United States Air Force in which half was dedicated to serving under Headquarters U.S. Air Forces Europe, Juanita J. Mullen gave some serious credit to her resume’ with a plethora of medals.
During her 20-year career, Mullen received numerous medals to include the Air Force Achievement Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, NATO Medal, and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.
Upon her retirement, she was hired by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington D.C. as a Self Determination Specialist in Contracts & Grants with the Eastern Regional Office, Education Specialist with the South Eastern States Agency (SESA), and as an Administrative Officer for Budget Management at the Department of Interior.
In 2004 Mullen joined the Center for Minority Veterans and Center for Women Veterans and serves as the American Indian Veterans Liaison to promote cultural diversity. She is an enrolled member of the Seneca Nation of Indians (Keeper of the Western Door), Cattaraugus Indian Reservation located in western New York.