The warrior spirit is something you’re born with. It’s in your dreams, and it’s in your actions. Not to be confused with patriotism. Patriotism, on a surface level, being the love of country, the love of culture, and your devotion to those ideals; that is conditioned by your experiences. The warrior spirit is a calling, and something birthed in your dreams manifested in your action. I met a lot of officers throughout my time in the Army, who joined because of patriotism, and it’s evident in their actions.
I was sitting a gunnery range, getting ready to shoot the Abrams tank. My battle buddies and I were talking during the proverbial time known as, “Hurry up and wait.” During those times, soldiers talk about a gambit of subjects from time travel to religion, etc. One of the guys started teasing about getting free stuff, because I was Native. I normally let stuff like that go, and chalk it up as ignorance. But that day, he was talking about how I got free college, and free money, free everything. I looked at him after listening to him run his mouth for a few moments and said, “How’d you commission.” He said, “ROTC.” I asked, “Did they pay for your tuition.” He replied, “yes.” I said, “Well, the government didn’t pay my tuition, as far as I’m concerned, you get more free stuff than me. I volunteered to be here, because it was my calling. You’re here because of an obligation.” He never brought up free stuff to me again. My point being that our warrior spirit transcends obligation and duty, it’s a calling and a calling that is evident in our tribal Nations in the United States.
According the US Department of Defense in 2010, Native Americans have the highest per-capita commitment of any ethnic population to defend the United States. There are estimates that if other ethnicities volunteers to service were as high as Native Americans, there would have never been a need to draft for World War II or Vietnam. The rate of those Native volunteers for service indicates the warrior spirit calling; not an obligation. Lots of people joined out of obligation, but there is no explanation for so many Native volunteering, other than it must be our warrior spirit calling us to fight. But it also means we have lost warriors in battle. And especially within my own tribe, given us Quechans have fought in every major battle since the Spanish American war and fought in battles before Americans had a history.
It is inevitable that we would lose warriors along the way. I am grateful for people like my Uncle Peter Flame. He was born in 1906 and died on Dec. 11, 1944 in the Bataan Province Central Luzon, Philippines. He was a CPL in the US Marine Corp during World War II. The family first heard about some of his injuries when he was wounded in action on January 24th, 1942. On December 1, 1943 he was one of 244 taken as prisoners of war by Japanese Forces. On Friday, February 2, 1944, our Uncle Gerald V. Dewey received a card from Peter, The card was from Philippine Military Prison Camp No. 3. Uncle Peter wrote that he had not received any letters (although Dewey has written frequently) but that he is doing fine and “don’t worry.” However, on Dec. 11, 1944 CPL. Peter Flame was killed when the Japanese prison ship he was on sank. I am in awe of his selfless act. What I respect and admire the most is when he told our family, “don’t worry.” In the face of adversity, he was able to maintain composure. He embodied the warrior spirit that runs in our blood as Quechans. The men and women who died for our Tribal Nation/ Nation leave a powerful legacy to their families. We must remember to carry on those legacies, and ask ourselves what am I doing with the sacrifices of my ancestors.
It’s one of the major reasons I joined the Army. I had my uncles in Vietnam and grandfathers in World War II, great Uncles, and cousins that served. I knew I had to join up, because I knew I was born with that warrior spirit. It had to manifest itself through military service, and since I was a kid I had dreams about it. My dreams have constantly guided me, and even in the little parts of my life.
The way I chose to be an armor officer was because of a dream. Our tribe believes in dreams and dream power, and although not explicitly I know a lot of other people believe in their dreams as well. But it also has to be coupled with action and performance. I remember it was the night before we were about to choose our military occupation or job. I was torn between two occupations, one being infantry and the second being armor. And that night I had a dream. In my dream, I was riding into the battlefield. I dreamt that I was riding a horse from the barracks into a green pasture, almost like in the Battle of Little Big Horn. And although I had short military style haircut back then, in my dream I had my long hair flowing in the wind like a Native fabio. And I rode into battle with the M-16 in my hand, waving it in the air like a AIM NDN. I rode back-and-forth from the battlefield to the barracks with my horse and M16. I woke up the next morning and knew I had to choose armor.
I’m thankful for the tradition I carry. But I’m most grateful for God giving me a warrior spirit that carries me, and continues to give me dreams to guide me along life’s journeys.