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November 11, 2011


Speaker connects Native Americans, warriors

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.
PHOTO: Scott Zaehler speaks during the Native American Month observance. Photo by Allan Harding
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 pow-wow programs.

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 common.”

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 military people.”

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 Marines.

“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 culture.”

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