Raised for part of her life by a father who managed a hotel catering to veterans, Mona Seminole-Carrasco knew early on the military was her calling.
“I grew up hearing their stories, learning about what it was to serve in the military. We even had someone there who had a Purple Heart which he earned in the Bataan Death March,” recalled Ms. Seminole-Carrasco who went on to serve two years in the Air Force and another six in the Tennessee Air National Guard.
She said that influential part of her early life was linked closely to her upbringing in Native American culture with the Northern Cheyenne tribe and a culture or service to others.
“Serving others, protecting others is very important, very drilled into you,” said Seminole-Carrasco.
It is part of the reason the retired Air Force veteran said we see Native Americans serve in greater number in the military than any other ethnic group, according to the National Museum of the American Indian.
In addition to our on-camera interview Ms. Carrasco took time to answer the following 10 questions about the influence the military has had on her life. She also took a moment to reiterate one example of service passed down by her tribe’s oral history tradition.
"During our interview, you asked me why I serve. I remember telling you how protecting others is just something you do. You don’t really think about it. I thought of an example I’d like to share with you that illustrates this point.
Buffalo Calf Road Woman witnessed her brother, Chief Comes in Sight, get wounded and surrounded by soldiers. She jumped on a horse and rode through the soldiers to where her brother was while being shot at. She helped him onto the horse and they rode up an embankment to safety.
I’m sure she wasn’t thinking about being brave or being a woman warrior, but just thinking that she had to protect. She had to act."
1. What one person influenced you most in life?
"My father was my biggest influence. He taught me that everyone deserves a chance, especially when their luck is low in life. Take a chance and give someone a helping hand so they can help themselves."
2. Do you feel honored and respected for serving your country?
"As a woman, people don’t look at me and see a military person unless I tell them. But the warm reception I get when people find out I served me country is heartwarming."
3. How can people thank you for your service?
"Just keep up the support for military personnel and veterans. The people I meet on the street are respectful as many have served or know someone in their family that is/has served."
4. How do you honor your fellow service men and women?
"I support local events when I see them advertised or my family tells me about them. I have also in the past organized with my company, a collection of items such as toiletries and books to send to the active duty troops overseas."
5. How do you think this generation of military men and women is different or similar to yours?
"Every generation of military men and women are influenced by the world events taking place around them. That said there is similarity in that the goals of peacekeeping and strength remain the same."
6. What influence did your military service have on the rest of your life?
"I am more patient. It is not wise to rush into a situation without knowing all you can about risks and possible outcomes."
7. Does your family have a history of military service?
"My father was a U.S. Marine in WWII. His older brothers served in the U.S. Army during WWI. On my mother’s side, I am from a long line of chiefs and warriors. My husband is retired from the U.S. Air Force. My son-in-law serves locally in the Tennessee Air National Guard."
8. Would you encourage younger generations in your family to join the service?
"I have talked to my daughters about serving in the military after they earn their bachelor’s degrees. They are all eligible to join the military physically and age-wise.
When we met our future son-in-law, he didn’t want to go to college right away, so we encouraged him to join the Tennessee Air National Guard and he did. He has since completed his bachelor’s degree but I like to think it was his military training that gave him the emotional maturity and drive to go to college and finish."
9. How has your opinion of war changed?
"Growing up in a military family and in my father’s hotel which accommodated mostly veterans, I grew up hearing personal stories of what it was like to be in war situations. It was not presented to me in grand Hollywood style as something gallant or heroic. I was told of the day-to-day drudgery of marching for miles in all kinds of weather, terrain and physical conditions. What several days of MREs was like and how appreciative a person was to receive a hot freshly cooked meal. How a person was treated or mistreated if caught by the enemy.
Sending someone off to fight is never taken lightly and I don’t think our leaders, whoever they may be at the time, take it lightly.
War is leaving your family behind, taking up arms and facing the greatest challenge of your life. War is a challenge that has the possibility of maiming you or could take your life. It is the scariest thing you could ask someone to do. The ultimate thing you can ask someone to do."
10. How did your military experience shape your faith?
"I value the life that has been given me."