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Eagle flies home: Airman receives a native name

Capt. Myles Morales poses for a photo holding his eagle feather Dec. 3, 2014, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Morales received the eagle feather during a naming ceremony held in his honor by the Lakota Sioux tribe on Standing Rock Reservation, South Dakota. Morales is the 336th Recruiting Squadron support flight commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ceaira Tinsley)

Capt. Myles Morales poses for a photo holding his eagle feather Dec. 3, 2014, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Morales received the eagle feather during a naming ceremony held in his honor by the Lakota Sioux tribe on Standing Rock Reservation, South Dakota. Morales is the 336th Recruiting Squadron support flight commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ceaira Tinsley)

Capt. Myles Morales poses for a photo with his Pendleton quilt Dec. 3, 2014, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Morales’ native name is Wanbli Kinyan Gli and it translates to ‘the eagle flies home.’ Morales is the 336th Recruiting Squadron support flight commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ceaira Tinsley)

Capt. Myles Morales poses for a photo with his Pendleton quilt Dec. 3, 2014, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Morales’ native name is Wanbli Kinyan Gli and it translates to ‘the eagle flies home.’ Morales is the 336th Recruiting Squadron support flight commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ceaira Tinsley)

A quilt and an eagle feather rest on a table Dec. 5, 2014, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. A native tribe gifted Capt. Myles Morales’, the 336th Recruiting Squadron support flight commander, with a native name, an eagle feather and 11 quilts during his naming ceremony held in honor of him and his military achievements. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ceaira Tinsley)

A quilt and an eagle feather rest on a table Dec. 5, 2014, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. A native tribe gifted Capt. Myles Morales’, the 336th Recruiting Squadron support flight commander, with a native name, an eagle feather and 11 quilts during his naming ceremony held in honor of him and his military achievements. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ceaira Tinsley)

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.)

The buildings looked the same and the people seemed familiar, but something was different, maybe it was him. His Native American ties were lost at a young age and now nearly 20 years had passed since he was last connected to his roots.

This piece of his life was broken until a naming ceremony brought him back to Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota.

Capt. Myles Morales, the 336th Recruiting Squadron support flight commander, traveled approximately 1,700 miles to receive one of the most distinguished decorations in his Native American culture: a name.

"My native name is now Wanbli Kinyan Gli and that stands for 'the eagle flies home,'" Morales said. "Before my grandmother passed away one of the last things she said was 'one day the kids will return' (to the reservation)."

Morales smiled as he described how the elders chose his name.

"(The elders) found my grandmother's words to be powerful and thought that name would be a perfect fit," Morales said.

A naming ceremony is a sacred Native American tradition in which the elders collectively bless a name that embodies a particular person's character or experiences.

"Specifically in the Lakota Sioux tradition, a naming ceremony is typically done for warriors before they go to battle," Morales said. "Nowadays, people receive them for many different milestones, like graduating college. Any major milestone in their lives (the tribe) tries to honor because there is not too much progression within the tribes lately."

Before this ceremony Morales wasn't well informed about his culture, but that all changed when he was invited back to experience a part of his heritage.

"My mom passed away when I was 8 years old and after that we lost touch with that side of the family," Morales said. "Now that I've pinned on captain it's a big deal to them because I'm only the second person in the tribe that has made this rank."

He chuckled as he recalled his limited knowledge of the ceremony before, but was proud of all the things he learned and the sacred gifts he was presented.

"They presented me with many gifts signifying their thanks and congratulations," Morales said. "It's customary to give either a Pendleton or star quilts, but I got 11 (Pendleton quilts) and that is equivalent to the status of what a chief would have gotten."

The tribe also gifted Morales' with an eagle feather that symbolizes trust, honor, strength, wisdom, power, freedom and many other things in the Native American culture. He is required to handle the feather with care and it can never touch the ground.

"The elders performed a presentation with the feather and used thyme to purify me," Morales said. "He instructed me to face north, east, south, and then west and during every direction he said a prayer. My family actually hand wove the beading (on my feather) and there is also an eternity wheel that represents life at the bottom made out of pheasant bone."

Morales spoke about the contributions his culture has made to the military.

According to the Annual Demographic Profile of the Department of Defense, American Indian/Alaskan Natives account for 1,901 or less than one percent of all active-duty service members in the Air Force

Native American code talkers were used in War World II, Morales said. Currently families are finding out that members of their tribe were so dedicated that they didn't even know they were in the military. These people guarded the military's secrets keeping their word of not speaking about missions until the day that they died.

Morales described members of his culture as very trusting and reliant people and he used this as the bedrock of his values.

"Everything I do I try to do well, and I've definitely developed a foundation (of values) from my culture to stand firm in tough times," Morales said. "The values I've learned have always been to be respectful, get an education and do everything to the best of your ability."

Now that Morales has been named, he embraces the Native American that he once knew little about. His grandmother was right, the children returned home.

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