Modern-day warriors were honored by their tribal leaders at the Muscogee-Creek Nation Wednesday.
Members of the 120th Combat Engineers battalion returned home last month after spending an entire year in Iraq. As News on 6 reporter Steve Berg explains, they celebrate both their service to America and their "Native" American heritage.
In the Creek Nationâ€™s modern-day mound building, there are still echoes of the past. Creek Chief A.D. Ellis says Native Americans have served the United States military from almost the beginning. "Very long tradition, back from the War of 1812 with Andrew Jackson, up to today."
It wasn't so long ago though that there were hostilities between Native Americans and the US military. But these veterans say they don't give it a second thought. "I like to make the remark that we're Creek citizens, we're Oklahoma citizens, but we're Americans most of all."
Sgt. Dennis Canard: "I'm a U.S. citizen and this is my country, and I'll do what I need to do to protect it." And Sgt. Dennis Canard says he has no mixed feelings about the operation in Iraq either. "A lot of good things are happening over there that are not seen." But it wasn't easy being gone for so long. He says the grind started to wear on him in the fourth of fifth month. â€œYou realize that your family members are halfway around the world, communication's not that great and you begin to find out some of the things you take for granted."
Members of the 120th even held a pow wow while they were in Baghdad, with fry bread and drums and some costumes that were shipped over from the states. They're duties included building housing for the troops, fortified positions in battle, and clearing bombs and mines, some dicey work to say the least.
Sgt. Tony Fields: â€œIt's not an easy feeling; it's a scary feeling, removing bombs, yes."
Sgt. Joe Haddox: "This is a proud day of my life to be honored. I'm no hero; I've just done a job and done it to the best of my ability."
The 120th is a part of the Army National Guard, stationed in Okmulgee. Not every member of the battalion is also a tribal member, but many are.