News>Through Airmen's Eyes: Airman embraces Native American culture, traditions
Tech. Sgt. April Cooper, 23d Wing command section superintendent, poses wearing her traditional Navajo dress at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., Nov. 27, 2012. November is Native American Heritage Month, which honors and celebrates the many contributions Native Americans have made and continue to make to the U.S. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Douglas Ellis)
Tech. Sgt. April Cooper, poses wearing her traditional Navajo dress at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., Nov. 27, 2012. November is Native American Heritage Month, which honors and celebrates the many contributions Native Americans have made and continue to make to the U.S. Cooper is the 23rd Wing command section superintendent. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Douglas Ellis)
by Airman 1st Class Jarrod Grammel
23d Wing Public Affairs
11/28/2012 - MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFNS) -- (This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)
As a young girl who grew up on the reservation in Fruitland, N.M., one Airman remembers happy ceremonies, traditions and family get-togethers. She spoke a different language, had a large extended family and lived in an area that was more than 90 percent Native American.
Tech. Sgt. April Cooper, 23d Wing command section superintendent, is proud to be 100 percent Navajo, and still embraces the culture and traditions she grew up with.
"I value and cherish every bit of heritage that is in and a part of me," she said. "I may have not been close to family throughout my years of service being away from home, but when I do go home for visits, it's always a great time to have a ceremony to have blessings given and also give thanks to Mother Earth and Father Sky."
Although military life has made it more difficult for her to visit home, she goes back every couple of years to spend time on the reservation. They hold ceremonies and celebrations; she helps out around the reservation and she spends time with her family.
"Being in the Air Force for the past 15 years has made it very difficult to be part of the traditions," said Cooper. "When I do go home for visits, my family and I always do a blessing ceremony for myself and my family's safety and well being. This involves an all-night ceremony in either our traditional Hogan or teepee, depending on the weather."
One of Cooper's close friends is Norlyn McNulty, 23rd Operational Support Squadron unit program coordinator, who has helped Cooper put on her traditional Navajo dress.
"She is very proud of her background, but not so much that she openly boasts about it," said McNulty. "If asked, she will openly share everything she knows.
"I learned to admire her," she added. "She is not the type of person to let everyday stressors get to her, and she doesn't complain about anything. She is one of the most optimistic people I've ever met. If you meet her boys, you will see that she is also one of the most loving people."
For Cooper, it's important her children be exposed to the traditions and culture so they can carry them on.
"As a Native American and a Navajo woman, my heritage is a part of me and I'm very proud of it," said Cooper. "My children are half Navajo, so I try to tell them about their heritage and where they came from to keep the traditions going. It is important to stay involved and keep the traditions in my family so that my kids can carry them on in their life."
One way Cooper gets her children involved is by letting them live on the reservation with family during their summers.
"I know she is very close to her sons, but she lets them go back to live with her family so they can be a part of the traditions," said Cooper's friend. "As a mother myself, I found it admirable that she can let them go by themselves to, not only be enriched by the culture, but also be with family as much as possible."
A big part of the Navajo culture is the language. They are one of the only Native American tribes that still use their native language for everyday communication.
"The Navajo language played a highly significant role in helping the entire nation during World War II when the Navajo language was used as a code to confuse the enemy," said Cooper. "Navajos were inducted and trained in the U.S. Marine Corps to become 'code talkers' on the front line. These men, known today as famed Navajo Code Talkers, proved to be the only code that could not be broken during World War II."
The Navajo code talkers are among many other Native Americans who have distinguished themselves throughout history. November is Native American Heritage Month, which honors and celebrates the many contributions Native Americans have made and continue to make to the U.S.
McNulty said it is important to recognize and celebrate these contributions. When asked why she thinks it is important to learn about and celebrate Native Americans and other cultures, she answered with a question of her own.
"I think a better question is why isn't it important?" said McNulty. "Why isn't it important to learn as much as you can about a different culture, especially when they were the original inhabitants of this country? I think that demands we learn more about one another."
12/9/2012 10:27:02 AM ET I challenge www.af.mil to do a 'through airmen's eyes' article on a white male airman that is pround of his European American heritage. The article would sound ridiculous just like this one does.
Maj, Home for a change
12/3/2012 8:10:25 PM ET @John- Aryan Brotherhood That's the connection you've made to my statement about us all being human beings How typical.
12/3/2012 9:19:01 AM ET To Maj.that's kind of messed up man just beacuse you don't care doesn't mean we all don't. If you didn't care then dont click the lnk and read the damn story...on a related news im sure i'll be reading about you Aryan Brotherhood Monthly
John Smith, My TARDIS
12/1/2012 2:59:51 PM ET AFI thumpers like AFI Info are a key reason I got out of the Air Force. These people suck the life out of those around them by constantly regurgitating this information and detracting from the issues at hand. The sad thing is that AFI Info either has this AFI memorized and was able to quote it which is a useless waste of space in your brain or took the time to go look up the AFI after reading the story just to have something to fuss about. Either way totally lame. Go be a Debbie Downer somewhere else.
Chris Kimball, Indiana
12/1/2012 8:46:22 AM ET Nothing personal but I don't care about your heritage or anyone else's. We are all human beings wearing blue.
11/29/2012 3:19:27 PM ET I agree with TSgt USAvilleit is standard and needs to be corrected now if it isnt that up to her supervisor. She is out of standards. But it is a great story.
Agree, AFI Ville
11/28/2012 7:40:30 PM ET I think this is a great story. All people should be proud of their heritage. And I agree TSgt USAville the title is not importatnt to this story. But is somebody is doing the job they should have the title.
Charles Mallory, OFallon IL
11/28/2012 5:44:09 PM ET Thank you TSgt April Cooper for sharing your herritage with all of us. What a beautiful diversity we have in our US military. I embrace diversity for a diverse air force is an effective air force an air force I want to be a pert of.
MSgt Jorge Charry USAF, Colorado
11/28/2012 2:17:42 PM ET TSgtUSAVIlle dude...chill out man..if you would quit nitpicking you would see this awesome story and better apreciate it.thank you af.milnews for having a really good story
John Smith, My TARDIS
11/28/2012 12:41:57 PM ET While I comment TSgt Cooper for bringing her heritage to others I can't help but notice her duty title 'Wing Command Section Superintendent'. She is a TSgt until she sews on MSgt she's a MSgt select but until she sews on is still a TSgt. She cannot possess the duty title of Superintendent per AFI 36-2618 page 22 7.2.7.Superintendent. Used for SNCOs in charge of GP- or WG-level functions or in a SQ when having either oversight of functions win other SQ's or win the same SQ. Only SNCOs will hold the duty title of Superintendent. But then again she does work for hte 'wing' and there is a waiver for everything.....
AFI Info, TSgt USAville
11/28/2012 10:45:16 AM ET Excellant story from Tech. Sgt. April Cooper and I think like her it is highly important to maintain Family traditions not only for Native Americans but for others who were born of imagrint parents. I tell people all the time when I find they or their parents speak a different language that they have an obligation to teach the language to their children so the family traditions get passed on. I think there is not enough American Indian history pushed here in the USA. Yes they talk about the Indian wars but there is much more than that part of historry and glad that Tech. Sgt. April Cooper got to talk a little about her heritage. Thanks for your service to our Great Nation.