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Recognizing American Indian And Alaskan Native Veterans

Washington, DC (NAPSI) - According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there  are more than 150,000 American Indian and Alaskan Native veterans throughout  the United States.

  The Veterans History Project (VHP) of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress invites these men and women to share their unique  stories of military experience.

Established by the U.S. Congress in 2000, VHP’s  mandate is to collect, preserve and make accessible the firsthand  recollections of America’s  wartime veterans. Through a network of volunteers from across the country,  the Project has collected nearly 89,000 stories, making it the largest oral  history project in the country.

VHP seeks to increase the number of veteran interviews from all minority  communities, including American Indian and Alaskan Native veterans. Among VHP’s 250 oral histories from the American Indian  and Alaskan Native veterans are the stories of Joseph Beimfohr  and Marcella Ryan Le Beau, both American Indians who served in the U.S.  military.

Joseph Beimfohr served in the Army during the  Iraq/Afghanistan War. When he deployed to Iraq in January 2005, he was  exposed to intense hostile fire. During his VHP interview, Beimfohr said, “You can’t just sit there and  be paralyzed with fear, because you’re going to get everybody killed.”   What he learned from his experiences was that soldiers have to trust their  training and instincts. He lost both legs to an explosion, and Beimfohr subsequently learned that the only limitations  in his life were self-imposed.

In 1943, Marcella Le Beau had just finished her nurse’s training in  her native South Dakota and was working at a  hospital in Pontiac, Michigan, when she heard about the Army’s  need for nurses. A year later, she was camped out in a cow pasture in Normandy, in the wake of the D-Day invasion, on her way  to Paris. “I  was young and I didn’t know what war was... I guess in a way that was a  saving grace,” Le Beau said. She never encountered discrimination  because of her background; in fact, when colleagues learned that her great-grandfather  was a Chief, they assumed she must be an “Indian princess.”

Beimfohr’s and Le Beau’s stories,  along with thousands more, may be accessed on VHP’s  website, www.loc.gov/vets. The website  also provides information on how to record and collect veterans’   stories using VHP’s free Field Kit, a  how-to-record-a-story booklet.