Native Americans enrolled as members or citizens of a federally recognized tribe have the opportunity to apply and compete for unique scholarships, grants and waived tuition to seek higher education.
For one soldier with the 1st Air Cavalry, serving his country after graduating high school was the choice meant for him.
Spc. Brandon Wolf, a health care specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, is an American Indian soldier serving in today’s military.
“I could have gone to college for free,” said Wolf, a Kingston, Okla., native. “That wasn’t for me. Hard work’s for me.”
Native American Heritage Month begins each year on Nov. 1 to celebrate and recognize the accomplishments of the country’s original inhabitants.
American Indians have a distinguished legacy in the Army. Thousands served in the armed forces from the early days of the Revolutionary War, with the Lewis and Clark expedition, as scouts with the U.S. Cavalry and code talkers in World War II.
Wolf, who is of Chickasaw and Choctaw decent, and his eight siblings grew up in southern Oklahoma. His blue-collar dad and no-nonsense mother taught him the value of hard work at an early age, he said.
“Hard work has always been something my family has taken pride in,” Wolf said. “I remember my dad coming in at midnight with about an inch of roofing tar stuck to his boots. As soon as I could, I was up there on the roof, too.”
Traces lineage back to Chicksaw chiefs
Wolf traces his family’s lineage back to Chickasaw chiefs, who first settled in Oklahoma around Cheyenne territory before the first white settlers arrived in North America. As far back as he can remember, making a living through hard work has been a staple in his family.
With his father, Gene, and mother, Eva, the Wolf family grew up roofing, running a slaughterhouse, welding, and performing a slew of other occupations involving tough manual labor.
Even with today’s modern conveniences, Wolf still carries on Native American traditions instilled in him from the time he was a child.
“I still hunt with a bow and noodle (hand fishing) for catfish with my brothers,” Wolf said. “I took my cousin hand fishing (catching fish out of the water without a rod or net) for his first time down at the Red River recently, and he pulled out a 45-pounder. It’s an amazing feeling to keep these traditions alive.”
Wolf learned to ride a horse, with and without a saddle, at age 11. Following Native American traditions, he and his brothers tamed a wild horse and still routinely play stick ball — a game similar to lacrosse, but with smaller sticks and a field goal post used for scoring instead of netted goals.
In their downtime, they attend biannual powwows and educate younger tribe members on customs and news about the tribe.
With a rich bloodline of American Indian heritage, some family members have served the military.
Wolf’s paternal grandfather served with the 29th Antisubmarine unit as part of the Army Air Corps, where he piloted a B-29 Superfortress during his two terms of service.
His uncle, a military policeman stationed in Germany, was hand-selected to carry President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s casket before retiring from service.
“Although my grandfather died shortly after I was born, my father told me stories of him and his service all the time,” Wolf said. “I always looked up to him, and I respected him and my uncle’s choice to serve.”
Wolf decided to join the Army in 2011 in order to better himself.
“I chose to be a medic, because I wanted to help people,” Wolf said.
“It’s pretty rough training, but I knew I could do anything I set my mind to.”
Wolf provides health care on a daily basis to soldiers at Troop Medical Clinic 12 at Hood Army Airfield. He said his parents could not be more supportive.
“They’re extremely proud,” Wolf said. “They have a lot of hope for me and my siblings, although my mom did ask me how come I didn’t choose the Air Force.”
Sgt. Jose Guzman has worked as Wolf’s first line supervisor for the last four months.
Guzman said he has watched Wolf grow not only as a medic, but as a newlywed husband and stepfather of a young child.
“He’s a sharp medic,” Guzman said. “He’s a very hard worker, and he’s a good dad who’s devoted to his family. He even elected to stay here at Fort Hood instead of changing posts, so that he could be within a close distance to his family in their time of medical need.”
Aside from putting in long hours at the clinic and furthering his knowledge as a medic, Wolf still finds time to help those around him.
“His skills are really shining through, and he keeps getting better,” Guzman said. “As busy as he is, he still is involved with his community, and tends to his community’s garden. He’s an outstanding citizen.”