WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy joins the nation in celebrating American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage throughout the month of November.
This year's theme, "Serving our Nations," represents American Indians and Alaska Natives, both civilian and military, as U.S. citizens and citizens of their tribes.
Today, National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month is celebrated to recognize the intertribal cultures of Native Americans and to inform the public of the rich heritage, history, and traditions of American Indian and Alaska Native peoples.
More than 9,000 Sailors and 2,000 civilians of American Indian and Alaska Native heritage serve in the Navy. According to the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs, 565 federally-recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Natives reside in the United States, composed of nearly 4.5 million American Indians and Alaska Natives, or 1.5 percent of the nation's population.
American Indians and Alaskan Natives have served honorably in the United States Navy for more than 200 years. During the 20th century, three Sailors of American Indian heritage received the Medal of Honor -- including Navy Cmdr. Ernest E. Evans, of Cherokee and Creek ancestry, who was awarded the medal posthumously for his actions during the Battle of Leyte Gulf while commanding destroyer USS Johnston (DD 557) Oct. 25, 1944.
Petty Officer 1st Class James Elliot Williams, a South Carolina Cherokee, received the Medal of Honor for heroic actions as a river patrol boat commander in South Vietnam's Mekong Delta Oct. 31, 1966. He is the most decorated enlisted Sailor in Navy history. In December 2004, guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams (DDG 95) was commissioned and named after Williams.
Lt. Michael Edwin Thorton, a South Carolina Cherokee, received the Medal of Honor for his heroic action as a petty officer second class SEAL in the Mekong Delta Oct. 31, 1972.
Patriots of American Indian and Alaskan Native heritage continue to build legacies of freedom and diversity. Serving today, Rear Adm. Jeffrey Trussler, an Oklahoma Cherokee, was commissioned at the Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, and qualified as a submarine officer. He was a recipient of the Naval Submarine League's Rear Adm. Jack Darby Award for Inspirational Leadership and Excellence in Command for 2006, and as a member of the Cherokee Nation was the American Indian Science and Engineering Society Executive Excellence award winner for 2008.
For more information about American Indians and Alaska Natives, visit https://www.public.navy.mil/BUPERS-NPC/SUPPORT/21ST_CENTURY_SAILOR/DIVERSITY/Pages/DiversityObservances.aspx or the Naval History and Heritage command site, http://www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/diversity/american-indians.html.
For more news from Chief of Naval Personnel, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnp/.