SUFFOLK, Va (Nov. 13, 2019) – Naval Information Forces, Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command (NCDOC), and Naval Network Warfare Command Diversity Committee hosted a National Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month celebration in the Hall of Heroes Auditorium on Nov. 13.
NCDOC Commanding Officer, Captain Harold Cole welcomed the guests and recognized the central role Native American and Alaska Native people have had in the U.S. Navy’s history.
“The theme of this celebration is Honoring our Nations: Building Strength through Understanding. Today we recognize Native Americans and Alaska Natives for having served with valor in our nation’s conflicts and for their many distinct and important contributions to the United States,” said Cole. “It is through events like this that we build understanding of their culture and strengthen our bonds as people with different backgrounds but common goals for ourselves and our families. Native Americans may be citizens of their sovereign Native American nations, but they are also U.S. citizens and they do not waiver in their support to our nation. They have distinguished themselves in the service of our nation and they continue to serve at higher percentages than any other ethnic group. Currently, more than 9,000 Sailors and 2,000 civilians of Native Americans and Alaska Natives serve in the U.S. Navy. They are our neighbors, they are our friends, and they are our shipmates.”
Cole introduced Chief Cryptologic Technician Networks Jestin Lowery as the guest speaker.
“Chief Lowery is a native of North Carolina and a 13-year Navy veteran. He is a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, recognized in 1885 by the state of North Carolina. He started in the Navy as an operations specialist before cross-rating to cryptologic technician networks. He became a Chief Petty Officer in 2015, and currently serves as NCDOC’s N7 Leading Chief Petty Officer.”
Lowery shared his experiences of growing up as a Native American and how proud he is to represent his tribe.
“Speaking about my people and bringing knowledge about my tribe is and will always be a great honor. I am a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. At approximately 60,000 members, we are the largest tribe east of the Mississippi River,” said Lowery. “We take pride in who we are because being from where we are from, there isn’t a lot of things to take pride in. It wasn’t until I joined the U.S. Navy that I realized I was raised in poverty. Robeson County has the highest poverty rate in North Carolina, with 32 percent of its population living below the poverty line. We don’t have much, but what we do have, we take great pride in.”
Lowery concluded, “When I am asked what drives my success, it is family. Not just my immediate family, but my people. I take great pride in representing my people in the military, and I also take great pride in showing my people how the military has given me so much. Remember that no matter where you come from or how poor you grew up, if you work hard to be a better person, set goals, and push yourself to grow and be better every day, good things will happen.”
National Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month is a time for the United States military to honor both fallen and active duty Native Americans and Alaska Natives who served in the armed forces.
To read more on contributions of Native Americans and Alaska Natives to the Navy, visit the Naval History and Heritage Command website.
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