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Military service, heroism of Native Americans honored at Sill

Blas Preciado, vice commander of the Kiowa Black Leggings Warrior Society, recalled his seven-month deployment to Vietnam with the 3rd Battalion, 27th Marine Corps Regiment, when he spoke at Fort Sill's American Indian Heritage Month luncheon on Thursday.

Maj. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, commanding general of Fort Sill and the Fires Center of Excellence, shared remarks about the theme of this month's national observance, "Standing Together." He began by recognizing honored guests from the Delaware, Kiowa and Comanche Nations and the Comanche Indian Veterans Association (CIVA).

"One of the things the Army is committed to is diversity. We know that diversity is one of the strengths of our Army, and we know that we are more effective if we're diverse," Shoffner said.

As an ethnic group, American Indians are way above average in their willingness to serve in the military, especially in the U.S. Army.

"If you think about the sacrifice and the contribution of the population, this community has given much more than would be expected," said Shoffner, noting that Fort Sill's I-See-O Hall bears the name of one of the last Indian scouts. Poolaw Hall takes its name from the most decorated Kiowa soldier in U.S. history, Master Sgt. Pascal Poolaw, who fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

"So the Army does have a sincere desire to preserve our shared history and do so going forward. I believe the only way to do that is by working together and standing together," the CG said.

As commander of the host organization, 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade, Col. Janice Chen introduced Preciado as a member of both the U.S. Marine Corps (1967-70) and the Marine Corps Reserves (1985-91). He was raised in the small Caddo County community of Stecker and currently lives in Anadarko. In civilian life, he worked with the Oklahoma City area of Indian Health Service and several western Oklahoma Indian tribes.

As Preciado mentioned during his talk, he went from being a warehouseman and supply chief to serving on the crew of an 81mm mortar. He was assigned that role in mid-February 1968 and deployed to Vietnam with 3-27 Marines to resist the Tet Offensive.

Nearly 175 men of his battalion were killed in action during their seven months in country. Nearly 750 more were medically evacuated for wounds and heat-related injuries.

His battalion participated in Operation Allenbrook in May 1968, in an area called Go Noi Island, Quang Nam Province, where they engaged and defeated North Vietnamese Army forces in fierce and intense battles. They were awarded a Meritorious Unit Citation for this operation.

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