Pensacola's Marine Corps League on Thursday night will honor Native Americans who have served in the U.S. military. The event is the second installment of the League's 2016 speaker series.
The monthly "Heroes Among Us" outdoor speaker series, which features local military heroes and raises money for veterans, kicked off its third year in May.
On Thursday, retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kirby Locklear will talk to the crowd at Pensacola's Veterans Memorial Park about his 22-year career in special operations and his Native American heritage.
Locklear, who is a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, is a 1978 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and has served in various combat zones, including Grenada, Panama, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Desert Shield, Kosovo and Mozambique.
Locklear plans to talk about his service and about the service of the many Native Americans who came before him.
"As a percentage, Native Americans are the ethnic group with the greatest number of military veterans," he said. "We are a people who protect our families and our nation."
Locklear is active in tribal activities including an annual powwow in the Panhandle.
While most Americans know about the Navajo code talkers who served in the Pacific in World War II, many other stories of Native American service have been overlooked or forgotten, he said. He said members of the Cherokee and Choctaw tribes fought in Europe in World War I, and other Native Americans helped with language codes in Europe during World War II.
Generations of Native Americans have served in all branches of the U.S. military, said Locklear who spends time at area schools educating children about Native American culture.
"A lot of people out there don't know that Native Americans are still around. The younger people, they only see Native Americans on TV or in movies," he said.
Locklear said the Marine Corps League presentation is special to him because his son, who died in January at 33 of complications related to his military service, was a Marine who served four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. His son, Jason Locklear, also was a proud member of the Lumbee tribe, he said.
The Pensacola Marine Corps League uses donations collected at the events to help local veterans of all branches of the military and their families. Speakers are scheduled each month through October. In July, the series will feature the U.S. Coast Guard.
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