“My mom has been through a lot in her life, but she showed me how to take what happened in the past and move forward,” said Master Sgt. Serena Dedes. “She told me to be proud of who I am and no one can take that away from me.”
Dedes, an equipment manager assigned to the Ohio National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing, proudly connects her military role with her White Mountain Apache background by sharing her heritage with those she serves alongside.
Although she was born and raised in Ohio, Dedes’ history will always be rooted in Arizona, home to the White Mountain Apache Tribe. She learned the Apache heritage through the teachings of her mother and going to traditional Pow Wows, which are Native American ceremonies involving feasting, singing, and dancing.
“With my mom being Apache, she always wanted me to know what our heritage is,” said Dedes. “We would attend these Pow Wows, whether here in Ohio, or somewhere else in the United States.”
Over the decades, her mother tried to teach her the Apache language, but she wasn’t fully immersed in the study, so she never picked it up fluently.
“I can’t speak Apache,” Dedes confirmed. “It’s becoming a dead language, so I want to get into my roots and really learn about it. I want to be able to pass it down to my kids and my granddaughter.”
With dedicated guidance from her mother, Dedes was taught the importance of being proud of her heritage and she extends those teachings to those who wish to understand the Apache culture.
“I put everything that I have into my work,” said Dedes. “I let people know my heritage and introduce them to my culture. I even have some Apache artifacts that I proudly display on my desk.”
Dedes also likes to share the big Apache tradition of fried bread.
“It’s a tradition that began way back in the very beginning when Indians were first on the reservation, Dedes said. “So I make fried bread now and bring it in, giving people the experience of something that is a part of the Apache heritage.”
Dedes is not only proud of being Native American, but also proud to be in the military.
“We are a very diverse Air Force,” Dedes said. “People have big impacts in what they can bring to the military and I carry that through with my Apache heritage.”
Her many contributions to the military and her Native American background allowed her to be honored by the Society of American Indian Government Employees, or SAIGE. The Society is the first national, non-profit, organization representing American Indian and Alaska Native Federal, Tribal, State and local government employees. It provides a forum on the issues, challenges and opportunities of Native Americans in the government workforce.
“I was honored to be nominated for the award,” said Dedes. “The military has been very good to me, I’m proud of my Apache culture and being able to share that and my military career.”
“I was proud to nominate her for the SAIGE award because of her strong work ethic in managing over $65 million dollars of on hand equipment for the unit as well as her deep appreciation for her culture,” said Master Sgt. Nickolas Whiteman, customer service section chief assigned to the 180FW Logistics Readiness Squadron and Dedes’ supervisor. “I was lucky enough to be able to visit the Native American Smithsonian Institute of Art in Washington D.C. with Serena and her overwhelming pride and enthusiasm, explaining and sharing, during that visit is something that I will never forget.”
The U.S. Air Force believes diversity encompasses all aspects of an individual to include race, religion, ethnicity, gender, experiences, and all perspectives. These initiatives are geared toward ensuring the U.S. Air Force attracts and retains the best and the brightest from across a full-spectrum of individuals to ensure that new and innovative ideas are fostered and the Total Force is unified by their shared devotion to their country.
Story by Airman Hope Geiger
180th Fighter Wing