November marks the start of National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month and it is an especially good time to introduce Lieutenant Kenneth L. Vargas, USN, a Seabee Combat Warfare officer and a proud member of the Choctaw Nation.
He makes presentations about the contributions of Native Americans in the military and to American society because “Educating my Navy family on my culture is a great privilege for my family and me. There are many misconceptions in the general population about Native American culture, ranging from the idea that Native Americans do not pay taxes to the notion that we speak ‘Indian.’ Sharing our culture promotes acceptance and understanding of fallacies that might otherwise go unchanged.” He notes that people would be surprised to learn that “we have all ethnic groups beat in the Armed Forces participation combined!! Native Americans have the highest record of service per capita when compared with other ethnic groups.”
His programs support the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead’s priority on celebrating and increasing diversity in the Navy; Vargas’ naval service is an example of why having diverse talents among naval personnel is critical to the Navy’s ability to complete its missions.
LT Vargas, a Bridgeport, Texas native, graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington and earned his Master of Science degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He began his career as a dental technician with the fleet marines at Camp Pendleton. As a Seabee, both officer and enlisted, he served with marines providing valuable engineering support to the war effort. He noted, “There is a special pride in serving side by side with my Marine Corps brothers; it is good ‘medicine’ for a warrior.” His most memorable tour is the one year he spent embedded with the New Iraqi Army. He remarked, “The Iraqi people have a proud tribal tradition and embraced me wholeheartedly as a brother quickly.” He describes the Navy’s Core Values as, “the greatest formula for success in life; Honor, Courage, and Commitment in every thing you do. Everything else will fall in place if you hold these three close to your heart.”
For Vargas, naval service means, “Being part of a military service that has deep time honored traditions goes hand in hand with my tribal traditions. I am a small, but integral cog in a very complex system that is our Navy, the proudest and strongest that has ever sailed the seven seas and the stars above!”