|By Tom Michele, Eagle Systems & Services
The 2011 observance of Native American Month at Fort McCoy was
highlighted by a mid-day luncheon at McCoy’s and a briefing by Scott
Zaehler, an Eastern Band Cherokee who serves as Fort McCoy’s Army
Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) manager.
Scott Zaehler, Fort McCoy Army
Substance Abuse Program manager, speaks to a Fort McCoy audience
during the installation observance of Native American Month.
Zaehler is a member of the Eastern Band Cherokee.
(Photo by Allan Harding)
Zaehler told the crowd at McCoy’s about some of the history of
Native Americans as the new nation of the United States grew. His
talk was augmented by a PowerPoint presentation with historical
timelines, notable Native Americans in history and several very
colorful images of Native American dancers in ceremonial dress at
Zaehler said Native American History Month honors Native Americans
for their service to the country. He explained Native Americans
serve, “Because military culture is very similar to Native American
culture. It is important to make that connection. It is necessary to
show that is what Native Americans and military people have in
Zaehler said, “It is all about duty, honor, respect, pride and the
spirit of service. That makes all of us an effective group of people
and not just individual people. I have that connection to a great
group of Native American people and I also have that connection to
Zaehler joined the Marine Corps in 1987 and served on nine
deployments, including two to Iraq. After his retirement in 2008, he
joined the Fort McCoy community as the ASAP manager.
“I see what I am doing now is an extension of my heritage and
culture,” Zaehler said.
In his presentation, Zaehler said he had not thought about a
military life until after college. “My grandfather and my uncle were
in the Navy. My father and an uncle were in the Army. My cousin is
in the Army, and seated here with us today. It is with a lot of
pride and honor that our family feels in service to our country.”
Zaehler said stories about military people inspired him to join the
“After college I read about the Iran-Contra Affair in the mid-1980s
with the focus on Marine Corps Lt. Col. Oliver North, and his duty,
honor, loyalty and service,” Zaehler said.
He read about Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Arizona, who was one of
the five Marines, along with a Navy corpsman, who raised the U.S.
Flag on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima Feb. 23, 1945. The six were
immortalized in an iconic photograph by Joe Rosenthal.
Zaehler also mentioned the Code Talkers who used their Native
American tribal language, mostly from the Navajo nation, to transmit
and receive radio communications, baffling Japanese listeners who
had cracked other U.S. codes.
Zaehler mentioned Army Pfc. Lori Piestewa who was killed in an
ambush near Nasiriyah, Iraq, March 23, 2003. From the Hopi Tribe,
she was the daughter of a Vietnam veteran and the granddaughter of a
World War II veteran.
“While in the Marines I met many people who felt the duty and honor
of serving,” Zaehler said. “I felt in place there. But, after my
discharge, I missed the culture of the warrior, and was led back to
service in the program I serve in today, that is part of the warrior