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Sailors assigned to the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) gathered on the mess decks – keeping social distancing in mind – to celebrate Native Americans and their contributions to the Navy during a ceremony hosted by the ship’s diversity team Nov. 30, 2020.
The ceremony emphasized Native Americans within the Navy and Marine Corps and highlighted their contributions over the past 200 years.
During the ceremony, Capt. Neil Koprowski, commanding officer of Kearsarge, lauded the efforts of the diversity committee and delivered remarks about how Native American Heritage month came to be.
“It started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions made by the first Americans to the United States,” said Koprowski. “It resulted in a whole month being designated for that purpose.”
This year’s theme of ‘Honoring the Past, Securing the Future’ commemorates the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and encouraged the crew to consider the impact of Native American service members throughout history.
According to the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, approximately 15,000 active-duty service members are of Native American or Alaskan descent with nearly 7,000 serving in the Navy.
Koprowski iterated that Kearsarge is committed to celebrating diversity as well as inclusion and equality.
“We are all Americans, but we are a special group,” said Koprowski. “We dedicated our lives to something greater. Although a small number of Native Americans are represented on Kearsarge, you make up 100 percent of the personnel requirement to operate this ship.”
After 100 years of efforts to recognize American Indians, National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month is observed to recognize native cultures and educate the public about the heritage, history, art and traditions of American Indians and Alaskan Natives.
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