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NEWS | Nov. 14, 2023

Shared Culture

By Senior Airman Katherine Jacobus 183d Wing

Years ago, a child growing up on a Navajo reservation in Tuba City, Arizona, noticed something flying overhead. He did not know what it was, or where it came from, but he knew he wanted to find out. Illinois Air National Guard Colonel Lawrence “Lulu'' Yazzie recalls this as the moment he knew he wanted to join the Air Force.

Yazzie grew up learning Comanche warrior culture. His father is from the Bitter Water Clan, and his mother is from the Prairie People and the plains, which are Comanche and Meskwaki. Joining the military served as Yazzie’s way of finding a space to uphold Comanche warrior culture, since historical events such as forced relocation and present modern society hinder it.

Yazzie explains, “There are moments as young men where we're taught, as we progressed into being children to the rite of passage and becoming warriors, what we speak for a greater audience and on our people, is that greater influence for us and who we protect and who we go after. So the military was a natural extension. And so I look at my family, my clan, my tribe, my people, and it was a natural transition to say, ‘This is America, and I'm going to fight for her.’”

Yazzie upheld his rich family history of United States military service when he attended the Air Force Academy and graduated as an officer. He notes that whether it is serendipitous or not, Native American Heritage Month overlapping with Veteran’s Day is fitting.

Yazzie states, “I typically like to pull all those together because when I look at my family, when I look at the American Indian population as a whole, we're the only race that has the most volunteerism.”

Yazzie exemplifies this volunteerism and today, as a colonel in the Illinois Air National Guard and the 183d Wing Mission Support Group Commander, Yazzie knows it was a U.S. Air Force jet flying overhead that day.

For more information on Native American Heritage Month, visit