11:44 AM

On Native American Heritage Month, We Remember a 'Long Line' of Service

Ronnie Picture

Only a few weeks removed from his death, she tears up recalling how much his country meant to her.

Vicki Kelly, Family Centered Care Program Manager at Cook Children’s, is talking about her cousin, David “Ronnie” Ronald Cruz. Ronnie was born on Jan. 29, 1947, and died on Oct. 29, 2021, after a long battle with cancer.

“He loved his country so much,” Vicki said. “He served in the military. He went through a lot during his time in the military, but he never complained. He was honored to do his duty for his country.”

Ronnie joined the U.S. Army on Feb. 17, 1965. He was an Airborne Medic and served two deployments to Vietnam.

Vicki fondly recalled her cousin, a retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer, who was all of five foot “sevinish” inches tall and had the deepest most commanding voice you’d ever hear. "I know that he had the respect of men who were twice his size.”

Ronnie Cruz joins a long line of Native Americans who have served in the U.S. Military. According to the USO (United Service Organizations), Native Americans serve in the United States’ Armed Forces at five times the national average. Of the 42,000 Native Americans who served in Vietnam War, 90% of them were volunteers.

Vicki said Ronnie stayed dedicated to his country until the end of his life as a member of the American Legion.

“For a community that has persevered through decades of challenges, Native Americans – also called American Indians – have remained steadfast in their defense of the United States as members of the Armed Forces for centuries,” Danielle DeSimone writes on uso.org.

Native Americans have served in the U.S. military in every major conflict for more than 200 years, she continues.

November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the culture and accomplishments of Native American people and educate people about issues that affect their communities. 

According to nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov, “What started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S., has resulted in a whole month being designated for that purpose.

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