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Kentucky Soldier proud to celebrate Native American heritage

By Stacy Floden | Kentucky National Guard | Nov. 6, 2019

FRANKFORT, Ky. —

Maj. Dayna Sanders of the Kentucky National Guard is a proud member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in Belcourt, North Dakota who considers American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month a way to ensure Native American traditions endure.

Sanders was raised in the Twin Cities and joined the Guard in 2007. After her second deployment, she moved to Kentucky in 2012. She started working full time with the Kentucky National Guard in 2013 and now serves in the Defensive Cyber Operations Element in Frankfort.

She joined the Guard mainly because of her father, an Air Force photographer in Vietnam.

"Growing up, he shared his experiences with me through his photography. I admired his loyalty to our country, and was determined to lead others based on his influence," said Sanders. "In fact, in high school, I was voted most likely to join the military. My father passed away in 2003. After I graduated college in 2006, I decided to carry on his legacy and enlisted."

"Maj. Sanders is an exceptional officer and has made a tremendous impact within the G6 and the Guard as a whole," said Lt. Col. John Blackburn, G6 chief information officer. "She has taken the lead on the transition process for cyber branch qualifications and is routinely engaged with the National Guard Bureau on cyber-related events and solutions.

"When she started with the G6 as the information assurance manager, she had to prepare for a Command Cyber Readiness Inspection within her first year," Blackburn said. "Her ability to prioritize and manage complex projects not only led to a successful inspection, it also established a benchmark that has improved the overall security posture of the Guard network."

Sanders says educating others about American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month ensures that her tribe's traditions are shared and passed to others.

"My tribe has about 30,000 members. The reservation is located very close to the Canadian border and was originally known as Siipiising, which means creek that sings with life-giving water," Sanders said. "The name Belcourt originated from a French Canadian Catholic priest who served as a missionary in the late 1800s."

In her first three and a half years in the military, Sanders was an ammunition specialist and a supply specialist. She deployed in 2008. "The experiences I had there showed me what good and bad leadership looked like, and ... what positive and negative effects leadership can have on the lives of Soldiers."

The first American Indian Day was celebrated in May 1916 in New York. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed a joint congressional resolution designating November 1990 as "National American Indian Heritage Month." We now refer to this annual celebration as "American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month."