FORT HOOD, Texas – American Indians enrolled as members or citizens of a U.S. federally recognized tribe have the opportunity to apply and compete for unique scholarships, grants and waived tuition to seek higher education.
For one Native American soldier with the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, serving his country after graduating from high school was the choice meant for him.
“I could have gone to college for free,” said Army Spc. Brandon Wolf, a health care specialist with the brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company.
Yet, that path “wasn’t for me. Hard work’s for me,” said Wolf, who hails from Kingston, Okla.
American Indians have a distinguished legacy in the Army. Thousands served in the armed forces from the early days of the Revolutionary War, with the Lewis and Clark expedition, as scouts with the U.S. Cavalry, and as code talkers in World War II.
Of Chickasaw and Choctaw descent, Wolf grew up in southern Oklahoma alongside eight siblings and was taught the value of hard work at an early age from his blue-collar dad and no-nonsense mother, he said.
“Hard work has always been something my family has taken pride in,” he said. “I remember my dad coming in at midnight with about an inch of roofing tar stuck to his boots. As soon as I could, I was up there on the roof, too.”
Wolf traces his family’s lineage back to Chickasaw chiefs who first settled in Oklahoma around Cheyenne territory before the first white settlers arrived in North America. As far back as he can remember, he said, making a living through hard work has been his family’s way. Wolf and his siblings grew up roofing, running a slaughterhouse, welding, and performing other occupations involving tough manual labor.
Even with today’s modern conveniences, Wolf said, he still carries on Native American traditions instilled in him from the time he was a child.
“I still hunt with a bow and noodle for catfish with my brothers,” Wolf said. “I took my cousin hand-fishing for his first time down at the Red River recently, and he pulled out a 45-pounder. It’s an amazing feeling to keep these traditions alive.”
Wolf learned to ride a horse, with and without a saddle, at 11. Following Native American traditions, he and his brothers tamed a wild horse. He and his brothers still routinely play a game similar to lacrosse, but with smaller sticks and a football field goalpost used for scoring instead of netted goals.
In their down time, they attend biannual powwows, where they celebrate their heritage by dancing throughout the night, as well as educating younger tribe members on customs and news regarding the tribe.
With a rich bloodline of American Indian heritage, the family also has had members serve in various branches of the armed forces.
Wolf’s paternal grandfather, David Wolf, served with the 29th Antisubmarine unit as an Army Air Corps pilot, flying a B-29 Superfortress during his two terms of service. His uncle, Lynn Wolf, was a military policeman.
Wolf said it was a no-brainer for him to volunteer to enlist during a time of conflict, considering his family’s storied legacy of service.
“Although my grandfather died shortly after I was born, my father told me stories of him and his service all the time,” he said. “I always looked up to him, and I respected [his] and my uncle’s choice to serve.”
Wolf said he joined the Army in 2011 to better himself while providing aid to soldiers around him.
“I chose to be a medic, because I wanted to help people,” he added. “It’s pretty rough training, but I knew I could do anything I set my mind to.”
Wolf provides health care to soldiers at Troop Medical Clinic 12 at Hood Army Airfield here. He said his parents could not be any more supportive.
“They’re extremely proud,” Wolf said. “They have a lot of hope for me and my siblings, although my mom did ask me how come I didn’t choose the Air Force.”
Fellow health care specialist Army Sgt. Jose Guzman, who hails from Columbia, S.C., has been Wolf’s first line supervisor for the last four months. He said he has watched Wolf grow not only as a medic, but also as a newlywed husband and stepfather of a young child.
“He’s a sharp medic,” Guzman said of Wolf. “He’s a very hard worker, and he’s a good dad who’s devoted to his family. He even elected to stay here at Fort Hood instead of changing posts, so that he could be within a close distance to his family in their time of medical need.”
Aside from putting in long hours and furthering his knowledge as a medic, Wolf still finds time to help those around him, Guzman said.
“His skills are really shining through, and he keeps getting better,” Guzman said. “As busy as he is, he still is involved with his community, and tends to his community’s garden. He’s an outstanding citizen.”