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Veterans Day 2012: Honoring Native American Veterans

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Native Americans stand among America's most distinguished authors, artists, scientists, and political leaders, and in their accomplishments, they have profoundly strengthened the legacy we will leave our children. So, too, have American Indians and Alaska Natives bravely fought to protect this legacy as members of our Armed Forces. As service members, [Native Americans] have shown exceptional valor and heroism on battlefields from the American Revolution to Iraq and Afghanistan. --President Barack Obama

American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) Veterans have played a vital role in the United States military for over two hundred years. Recognizing their long history of distinguished service, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs produced a report seeking to provide comprehensive statistics on this important cohort of Veterans through an examination of AI/AN Active Duty, Reserve, and National Guard data together with demographic, socioeconomic, and health status statistics for AI/AN Veterans.
AI/AN Active Duty, Reserve, and National Guard Analysis
• Native Americans serve at a high rate and have a higher concentration of female Servicemembers than all other Servicemembers.
• AI/AN Servicemembers are younger as a cohort than all other Servicemembers.
• More AI/AN Servicemembers serve in the Navy than in any other branch of service.
AI/AN Veteran Analysis
• Similar to AI/AN Servicemembers, AI/AN Veterans are younger as a cohort.
• AI/AN Veterans have served in more recent conflicts.
• AI/AN Veterans have lower incomes, lower educational attainment, and higher unemployment than Veterans of other races.
• AI/AN Veterans are also more likely to lack health insurance and to have a disability, service-connected or otherwise, than Veterans of other races.

The Warrior Ethos of Native Americans can never be understated or overly honored. A couple of statistics from the VA's report that are especially worth noting (To read the VA's full report, please click here.)

• Roughly 12,000 Native Americans volunteered to serve in the U.S. military during World War I. At the time, these men were not allowed to be U.S. citizens.

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• More than 42,000 Native Americans served in the military in the Vietnam Era, and over 90 percent of these Servicemembers were volunteers.

There are currently more than 154,00o Native American Veterans. Today, we set aside a special moment to honor these men and women, though their efforts and sacrifices are to be appreciated every day just as we never forget those who have fallen and walked on. It seems appropriate that Veterans Day falls within Native American Heritage Month: Honor, Pride, Respect, Service .... Dignity.

Happy Veterans Day.