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November 1, 2013

AF culture shift for Navajo Airman

Tech. Sgt. MATTHEW GLOWICKI
56th Security Forces Squadron

Tradition runs deep for Senior Airman Justine Paramo, 56th Medical Group internal medicine technician and a full-blood Navajo. Hailing from Shiprock, N.M., Paramo is familiar with the traditions and customs of her tribe.

“One of the traditions my parents would follow was to have my brother, sister and me stand outside in the snow in order to get rid of our weakness,” she said. “We were kids so we didn’t really mind because we loved playing in the snow.”

But while the traditions of her people run deep, there is another tradition that runs deep in this Airman – service to her country.

“I have a long history of family members serving in the military,” Paramo said. “My late great grandfather was a Navajo code talker. My ‘Nali,’ or paternal grandfather, served in the Army and my ‘Chei,’ or maternal grandfather, served in the Air Force. Both of my parents served in the military as well.”

After graduating from Shiprock High School and attending San Juan College in Farmington, N.M., Paramo decided to continue her family’s legacy of service by joining the Air Force.

“Prior to my enlistment in 2007, my parents brought a Navajo medicine man to perform a ritual and bless me,” she said. “This is traditionally done to keep us safe during our military service.”

While Paramo is proud of her Native American Indian heritage, there are the occasional moments of frustration and laughter.

“I had a guy whisper to me, ‘So, do you guys still live in teepees and ride horses everywhere?’ I started to laugh because I thought he was being silly, but when I looked back at him he was very serious,” she said. “He explained to me that he only learned about Native Americans from his school textbook.”

Being a Native American in the military can be challenging at times due to the different values and traditions of her tribe, Paramo said. But the sense of serving the country and making a difference makes every challenge worth it.

“I don’t think there is a certain word that can describe the feeling of serving your country,” she said, “but for me, it feels fantastic.”




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