Cultural Pride

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.
  • 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

In 2009, President Barack Obama established November as National Native American Heritage Month (NAHM).

In honor of NAHM 2021, Team Osan celebrated with a series of educational and entertaining events. Master Sergeant Wesley Hicks, 7th Air Force duty programs manager, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, and a Native American himself took the lead as head chef teaching the Osan community how to make fry bread.

“I do the best I can to spread the word of the Native American culture, because I know that not everyone has met someone from our culture,” said Hicks. “Currently, there’s only about 24,000 Native Americans serving between all military branches.”

Hicks was raised on a reservation in Oklahoma and many of the native creeds and cultural practices he was raised to embody parallel military service core values.

“We believe in hard work and to have a sense of pride in all of what we do,” added Hicks.

Hicks has developed a lifestyle of spreading awareness about his culture and family’s history wherever he goes. For example, Hicks pioneered the Native American Heritage Committee at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Today, the group has an upwards of 93 members, whom are all passionate themselves about sharing their various cultural experiences with their surrounding community.

Hicks is also a member of Osan’s Native American Heritage Committee (NAHC). Osan’s NAHC provided Hicks the platform to meet and lead 35 individuals in a cooking class that taught how to make fry bread, a prominent Native American dish. The tradition of fry bread is about 150 years old. Tribes were obligated to become creative with food resources in order to survive to include living off of provided U.S. government meal resources. The ingredients of fry bread, which originated with the Navajo tribes, include water, white flower and oil.

Growing up, joining the military was a common practice among the tribes, due to the familiar concept of being a part of something bigger than oneself such as a family or a team. Although Native American cultures account for a small percentage of the total group of demographics for the DOD and the United States, a large percentage of the Native American population serve in the armed forces.

After multiple assignments outside of the U.S., Hicks has learned how to relate to many backgrounds and it is his hope that he is able to do the same for others by sharing his story.

“It’s more about the people, not about me personally,” said Hicks. “My ancestors fought hard to survive. I have a responsibility to share that with people around the world and within the Air Force. We are a proud people and believe in hard work and traditions.”