It’s a time to reflect on the contributions and sacrifices Native Americans have made to the United States, not just in the military, but in all walks of life.
Charles Norman Shay, a Native American of the Penobscot tribe in Maine, was drafted into the Army in 1943 at the age of 19.
He trained as a combat medic and was assigned to the 16th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division, aka the “Big Red One.”
On June 6, 1944, during the Allied invasion of Normandy, France, Shay waded ashore on Omaha Beach. He was soon busy tending to the many wounded.
Later in the war, he applied his medical skills to the wounded at the Battles of Aachen, Hurtgen Forest, and the Battle of the Bulge.
Shay was later attached to a reconnaissance squadron near the village of Auel, close to the Sieg River in Germany. The squadron encountered about 20 German soldiers accompanied by a tank with a 88mm weapon and were forced to surrender.
The squadron was then marched about 60 miles, moving only by night, to the POW Camp Stalag VI-G. The column of prisoners steadily grew along the way as more Americans were captured. Shay was interrogated and held there until April 12, 1945, when U.S. troops encircled the camp, trapping 350,000 enemy soldiers and liberating the camp.
Upon returning stateside after the war, Shay was unable to find work so he reenlisted in the Army. He was stationed in Vienna, Austria, serving as a medic with a military police unit.
On June 25, 1950, the Korean War started. Shay was assigned to the 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division as a combat medic.
His many awards include a Silver Star Medal and a Bronze Star Medal with two oak leaf clusters. He was also awarded the French Legion of Honour.
Shay remained in the Army and retired as a master sergeant.
Today, Shay is an elder member of the Penobscot tribe of Maine. He currently lives in France, and he is active in a number of American veteran projects.