Native American beliefs, names and customs have been incorporated within many titles, vehicle designations, weapons and traditions of the United States military since the country’s inception.
For U.S. Army Specialist Nathan Creel, an animal care specialist assigned to the Charleston Veterinary Treatment Facility and Charleston native, including his culture in his personal life and Army career means a lot.
“Incorporating my morals and character from my upbringing to my work life enables me to be the best person and Soldier I can be,” said Creel. “This helped me realize it doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters where you’re going, staying true to yourself, taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way and not taking a single second for granted.”
Creel has been in the Army since June 18, 2013 and has been stationed here for three years. Being stationed so close to his tribe, the Edisto Natchez-Kusso Tribe, has enabled Creel to participate in one of the most important traditions for him; southern drumming.
“I have been a southern drummer and singer for my tribe since 2010 and have been playing ever since,” said Creel. “Growing up, I would watch family members, friends and mentors play the southern drums around me and it inspired me to be a drummer as well.”
According to S&K Technologies Inc., many North American tribes view the drum as the center of each family or community.
Some tribes even view the drum as its own individual entity or soul. The beats of the drum are thought to carry prayers up toward The Creator. The drum has been a significant part of ceremonial and inter-tribal gatherings for generations.
“During powwows, a group of us will sit in a circle with this one drum and we will sing and chant to the beat we make and it is truly inspiring,” said Creel. “I’m very proud to be a part of a great tradition.”
On top of his time within his tribe, Creel’s work and dedication to his unit have proven to only increase the quality of life for the animals who receive care at the CVTF.
Army Capt. Jennifer Brogie, CVTF officer in charge, has been witnessing Creel’s efforts for over a year now and has seen the differences with his contributions to the office.
“Creel has some of the best work ethic and critical thinking skills I’ve ever seen in a junior Soldier,” said Brogie. “He has been our clinical NCO for three years which is him serving above his necessary skill level and pay-grade. This job isn’t an easy one, but his character and attitude have been the backbone of our clinic.”
The CVTF provides medical care to military working dogs and the cats and dogs of military members and retirees. Working in an area of healthcare has a significant meaning to Creel due to his family and tribe.
“Healthcare was hard to come by while on the reservation and literally didn’t exist for us until the early 2000s,” said Creel. “The different interactions and the way I’ve been able to help animals with their health is probably one of my favorite parts of the job.”
Creel will be separating from the Army after six years of honorable service on Sept. 13, 2019, and will be dedicating his time to his tribe and himself.
“I’m grateful to the Army for helping me grow up at an early age and molding me into a better person and Soldier,” said Creel. “It helped build a foundation for me to be successful and instill the values I’ve learned onto others for the rest of my life.”