FORT DRUM, N.Y. (WWNY) - This is National American Indian Heritage Month. Fort Drum spent the day Wednesday honoring American Indians that serve in the military.
Welcome to the new Lieutenant Colonel Earnest Childers Inclement Weather Training Facility.
Childers, a Muscogee Creek Native American, trained at Fort Drum in 1942 when it was called Pine Camp.
His bravery while fighting in World War II earned him the Medal of Honor, making him the first Native American to get the award.
“Here’s a guy with a broken foot, and they come under fire from Germans and he has a squad of approximately 8 or 9 enlisted soldiers with him and he has them lay a base of fire and his thoughts are of selfless, I gotta save my guys,” said Chris Chomash, former commander of the 45th Infantry Brigade.
His legacy will be remembered with this facility.
Childers wasn't the only American Indian soldier honored. Fort Drum held a ceremony recognizing the relationship between native nations and the military after the facility dedication. Ray Halbritter spoke on behalf of the Oneida Indian nation.
"Our people have fought in every conflict, every war this country has ever had, and we're proud of that relationship and the relationship we have with Fort Drum today," he said.
Native legend says the greatest gift the creator can give mankind is peace. Halbritter says if anyone knows the value of peace, it's the military.
"We're just really proud of our fighting men and we're proud of having the relationship we do," he said.
There are currently 31,000 Native Americans active in the U.S. military - more than any other ethnic group.
"All cultures make up the fabric of the United States Army and America so it is important on this hallowed day, for the National American Indian Heritage Observance, that we show respect to all American Indians across the country," said 10th Mountain Division Equal Opportunity Program Manager Colonel John Cuva.
So whether it’s all 31,000 Native American soldiers, or just one very special one, Fort Drum officials say it’s important to honor those who serve their country.