Air Force

November 30, 2012

Airman embraces Native American culture, traditions

Tags:
Airman 1st Class Jarrod Grammel
23d Wing Public Affairs


MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFNS) — As a young girl who grew up on the reservation in Fruitland, N.M., one Airman remembers happy ceremonies, traditions and family get-togethers. She spoke a different language, had a large extended family and lived in an area that was more than 90 percent Native American.

Tech. Sgt. April Cooper, 23d Wing command section superintendent, is proud to be 100 percent Navajo, and still embraces the culture and traditions she grew up with.

“I value and cherish every bit of heritage that is in and a part of me,” she said. “I may have not been close to family throughout my years of service being away from home, but when I do go home for visits, it’s always a great time to have a ceremony to have blessings given and also give thanks to Mother Earth and Father Sky.”

Although military life has made it more difficult for her to visit home, she goes back every couple of years to spend time on the reservation. They hold ceremonies and celebrations; she helps out around the reservation and she spends time with her family.

“Being in the Air Force for the past 15 years has made it very difficult to be part of the traditions,” said Cooper. “When I do go home for visits, my family and I always do a blessing ceremony for myself and my family’s safety and well being. This involves an all-night ceremony in either our traditional Hogan or teepee, depending on the weather.”

One of Cooper’s close friends is Norlyn McNulty, 23rd Operational Support Squadron unit program coordinator, who has helped Cooper put on her traditional Navajo dress.

“She is very proud of her background, but not so much that she openly boasts about it,” said McNulty. “If asked, she will openly share everything she knows.

“I learned to admire her,” she added. “She is not the type of person to let everyday stressors get to her, and she doesn’t complain about anything. She is one of the most optimistic people I’ve ever met. If you meet her boys, you will see that she is also one of the most loving people.”

For Cooper, it’s important her children be exposed to the traditions and culture so they can carry them on.

“As a Native American and a Navajo woman, my heritage is a part of me and I’m very proud of it,” said Cooper. “My children are half Navajo, so I try to tell them about their heritage and where they came from to keep the traditions going. It is important to stay involved and keep the traditions in my family so that my kids can carry them on in their life.”

One way Cooper gets her children involved is by letting them live on the reservation with family during their summers.

“I know she is very close to her sons, but she lets them go back to live with her family so they can be a part of the traditions,” said Cooper’s friend. “As a mother myself, I found it admirable that she can let them go by themselves to, not only be enriched by the culture, but also be with family as much as possible.”

A big part of the Navajo culture is the language. They are one of the only Native American tribes that still use their native language for everyday communication.

“The Navajo language played a highly significant role in helping the entire nation during World War II when the Navajo language was used as a code to confuse the enemy,” said Cooper. “Navajos were inducted and trained in the U.S. Marine Corps to become ‘code talkers’ on the front line. These men, known today as famed Navajo Code Talkers, proved to be the only code that could not be broken during World War II.”

The Navajo code talkers are among many other Native Americans who have distinguished themselves throughout history. November is Native American Heritage Month, which honors and celebrates the many contributions Native Americans have made and continue to make to the U.S.
McNulty said it is important to recognize and celebrate these contributions. When asked why she thinks it is important to learn about and celebrate Native Americans and other cultures, she answered with a question of her own.

“I think a better question is why isn’t it important?” said McNulty. “Why isn’t it important to learn as much as you can about a different culture, especially when they were the original inhabitants of this country? I think that demands we learn more about one another.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

The new fight: Writing cyber into the science of war

Every year, the Aspen Security Forum brings together the top minds in defense, intelligence and homeland security. This year, more than ever, the conversation is turning to cybersecurity – protecting computer networks and everything attached to them. Cyber is constantly changing the way conflicts and combat unfold. Here, former U.S. Navy Rear Adm. William Leigher offers insights...
 
 
(U.S. Air Force photo/Osakabe Yasuo)

Need help? Trust your ‘Shirt’

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Arizona — When young Airmen need help or are looking for guidance, a good place to start is with a senior NCO. Making it into the top 3 percent in the U.S. Air Force is a major accomplishment. Alt...
 
 

Local Briefs July 31, 2015

Sunset Horseback Ride August 8, 4 – 8 p.m. – Outdoor Rec Saddle up and enjoy a 2-hour sunset horseback ride through the Saguaro National Park.. Final deadline for sign-ups is July 31. Minimum age: 18. Cost of $25/person. Call 228-3736 for more information. White water rafting and camping Aug. 20 – 24 – Grand...
 

 
(Courtesy Photo)

A Q&A with Master Sgt. Jaime Lewis

The men and women of the 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) welcomed a new First Sgt. in May. Master Sgt. Jaime M. Lewis, began his career in 2000 as an Aerial Porter, where he performed duties such as passenger services, car...
 
 
(U.S. Air Force photo/ Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

Relationship building by means of the F-16

  America’s stars and stripes and Arizona’s lone copper star always wave proudly at the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing. But it’s the adjacent flags of coalition-partners – from the pacific island-nat...
 
 

Military life: Separated, but not alone

  MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho — As the dawn broke out over the mountains, I woke up to the sun peeping through my window. Once I got up I went straight to the kitchen to make my family breakfast yet in the back of my mind, all I could think about is how am I...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>