by Elizabeth Phillips
California National Guard Public Affairs
Nov. 1, 2023
SACRAMENTO, Calif. –Native Americans have a long and proud history of military service in every major conflict for over 200 years. They have served at higher rates than any other ethnic group, with almost 19% joining the armed forces after 9/11.
One such person building this legacy is Army Sgt. 1st Class Vincent Orosco, 40th Infantry Division senior human resource sergeant.
“I am Chiricahua-Apache and Pascua-Yaqui,” said Orosco. “My birth name is Storm. My daughters are Beautiful Storm and Graceful Storm.”
Though his birth name is steeped in Native traditions he goes by Vincent Orosco, taking on his father’s name. Orosco’s mother instilled in him a deep respect for his Native heritage.
In Indigenous communities, women spearhead the families. Native American matrilineal societies trace descent through the mother’s line. Women hold significant roles in decision-making and leadership.
“My mom initially motivated me to know my roots and where I come from,” he said fondly.
At a young age, his mother guided Orosco to culturally significant events like ceremonies, pow-wows, and watching his sisters dance in the community. He quickly learned that in the Native community a person is defined by their actions.
“My uncle had just joined the Guard a couple of years earlier, so I talked to the recruiter, and that changed the course of my life,” Orosco reminisced.
Throughout his 20-year military career, Orosco has led the way for Native Americans. One of these contributions is teaching others how to be a leader.
“What makes [us] successful is what makes us tick…,” he said. “When it comes to my ancestry, I seek to understand it better, to know what’s in my bloodline, and to understand where other people are coming from. That makes me a better leader.”
In 2010, he was nominated by Air Force Maj. Gen. Mary J. Kight, then Adjutant General of California, and won the Society of American Indian Government Employees award, which honors Native American service members and veterans in government service. To earn the award, individuals must make substantial contributions to both the government and the Native identity, while demonstrating exceptional dedication and performance in their roles.
For some Native Americans, their connection to their heritage is deeply personal, while for others it is a matter of family history or cultural identity, but what unites them is a profound sense of pride and strength as they serve their country with commitment and loyalty.
“For the young kids reading this, you are not by yourself,” he said.” There are others paving the way for you. You can go anywhere in the world as long as you open your mind to the impossible.”