Air Force

November 15, 2013

Family, priority in native culture

In the military, a last name is a hard thing to get away from. We are trained to refer to people by their rank and last name. In many instances, a last name can offer a glimpse into the heritage of a person, whether it is a common German, Irish or other name. One Airman’s last name gives a clear indication of her cultural background – Capt. Anna Walking Eagle, 56th Medical Operations Squadron pediatrics nurse manager.

“My husband was prior Army, and I was already a certified nurse, so we thought joining the Air Force was a good idea,” she said.

Walking Eagle attended Officer Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base in 2004.

“My name comes from my Native American background,” she said. “I am part of the Creek and Cherokee tribes, which both have their own languages, values and traditions.”

One of the difficulties Walking Eagle finds is the social stigma attached to the true history of Native Americans, she said.

“Many things about our culture are not taught in our schools,” Walking Eagle said. “Things like Native American traditions. The lack of education about our history and cultures creates an environment conducive to misunderstandings.”

One of the most important things in her culture, she said, is family.

“My first cousin is Phillip Coon,” she said. “He is a World War II veteran and Tribal Creek member. He was a POW and survived the Bataan Death March. In October, he was awarded various medals he had earned during his time in service, including the POW medal, Bronze Star and Combat Infantry Badge.”

Walking Eagle finds satisfaction in walking in her first cousin’s footsteps, returning from a recent deployment to Afghanistan with an Army Commendation Medal.

“It makes me very proud to serve my country,” she said. “Being a Native American in the military is a true honor. I enjoy being a positive role model for others, like my husband and first cousin were for me.”




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