By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jose L. Hernandez.

BREMERTON, Wash. – Sailors stationed aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) attended a ceremony hosted by Stennis’ multicultural committee honoring American Indian and Alaskan Native Heritage Month, Nov. 21.

“Native American service members have fought and served heroically in all American wars and conflicts,” said Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Elijah Lonewolf. “It’s well recognized that historically, Native Americans have the highest record of service per capita.”

The theme of the celebration, Guiding Our Destiny with Heritage and Traditions, encouraged the crew to reflect and celebrate the cultures and histories of the indigenous peoples of North America, Alaska and Hawaii.

“We have distinctive cultural values which drive us to serve our country,”
said Lonewolf. “Those values are part of our proud warrior tradition.”

During the ceremony Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 2nd Class Janel Banks spoke about how she passes her heritage on to her children.

“I continue my heritage by teaching my kids to always be strong and proud of who they are,” said Banks. “I’m proud of my heritage and I’m proud to serve my country.”

Capt. Michael Wettlauffer, Stennis’ commanding officer, commented on the concept of the warrior tradition.

“The warrior tradition is a concept that Sailors share with the Native American people,” said Wettlaufer. “It’s a tradition that honors our history and those that came before us.”

Members of the Squaxin Island Tribe were in attendance, and spoke about the similarities between both American Indian and Alaskan Natives and military service members

“I think it’s important for people to know and understand that Native Americans are no different than our brothers in the military” said Arnold Cooper, Squaxin Island Tribe council member. “We’re all protecting our families and our country.”

Stennis is currently undergoing a Docked Planned Incremental Availability (DPIA) maintenance period at PSNS and IMF.

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