From an entire population of less than 350,000 Native Americans, a staggering 44,000 Native Americans served in World War II. Today, there are 140,000 living Native American Veterans. It is only fitting during Native American History Month this November, that G.I. Junk Removal highlights the extraordinary heroics of some notable Native American Veterans whose enduring and distinguished services in war show truly inspiring heart and spirit.
Master Sergeant Woodrow Wilson Keeble
Known as Woody, Master Sgt. Keeble was a full-blooded Sioux who served as U.S. Army National Guard in World War II and the Korean War. He has been awarded with the Distinguished Service Cross, which was later upgraded to a posthumous Medal of Honor, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
As a kid, Keeble excelled in baseball, winning 10 straight victories for the Wahpeton amateur team which he was part of. He would have been part of the Chicago White Sox baseball team which was recruiting him had his U.S. Army National Guard unit not been called to serve in World War II in 1941.
His baseball skills, however, served him well in the war. He was known to accurately hurl hand grenades with his pitching arm. With the same accuracy, he mastered the Browning Automatic Rifle. He was gaining such a popularity for his courage and skill that one soldier who fought alongside him claimed that "The safest place to be was right next to Woody.” As part of the North Dakota 164th Infantry Regiment in World War II, Keeble participated in ultimately leading to the defeat of the Japanese. As part of the 24th Infantry Division in the Korean War, Keeble showed extraordinary heroism and leadership by single-handedly attacking three machine gun nests despite his badly injured condition and the heavy enemy fire coming down on him.
In explaining his experience in combat, Keeble wrote, “There were terrible moments that encompassed a lifetime, an endlessness, when terror was so strong in me, that I could feel idiocy replace reason. Yet I have never left my position, nor have I shirked hazardous duty. Fear did not make a coward out of me.”
Colonel Louis Gonzaga Mendez Jr.
By his calm disregard for personal danger and his ability to act quickly and aggressively under fire, he turned imminent catastrophe into a victory. Lieutenant Colonel Mendez's courage, calmness, judgment and devotion to duty were directly responsible for the achievement of his battalion's objective and were in keeping with the highest traditions of our armed forces."
He was also awarded three Bronze Star Medals for his dynamic and inspiring leadership and unyielding determination which got his unit through the difficulties of war.
In 2002, the people of the village renamed its main square "La Place du Colonel Mendez" in honor of his memory.
In honor of several Native American Veterans, G.I. Junk celebrates Native History Month. We appreciate your service and recognize your contributions.
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