Lee Stuart is a Native American Indian from the “Sappony” tribe in the North Carolina/Virginia area. He is a retired military officer with 30+ years of service. Drafted in 1967, he served in Vietnam and retired in June of 2002. He was an Airborne, Infantry, Ranger, Pathfinder, Master Scuba Diver, and Special Operations Aviator. During his career he was shot twice, grenaded once, accidentally bombed once and missed by the largest suicide bombers in Iraq, as a contractor, on 1 February 2004 when 114 people were killed, and 454 persons were wounded. “I survived all of those ordeals because of the strong prayers of my mother and grandmother.” He is now actively involved with the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation in Hampton Georgia. For more information, see their website, http://www.armyav.org.
1. How and/or when did you get you hooked on history?
I never really took an interest in studying history when I was in high school because everything seemed so far away, irrelevant and not part of my little personal Jonesboro Georgia world. When I got drafted in 1967 and knew I was going to Vietnam, so I began studying the history of Vietnam. From then on I started intensely studying the different countries I would be stationed in.
2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?
As a young Native American who was not raised on a Indian Reservation/Community like some of my other family members I was taught a different, (Non-Native American Indian), perspective/version of the United States and the History of Native Americans. Whenever I would return to visit my own tribe I started hearing different stories of our Tribal History than what was not printed and taught in the Non-Native American schools I attended. Since my generation knew that the various historical facts that were being presented about our tribe did not seem to jive with what we personally knew we applied for a grant to study and trace our tribal history to correct what was being published and taught/not taught in our schools.
3. How is/How was history a part of your professional life/career?
I learned very early on in my military career how important it was to understand the history of the region, country, culture and the people that I would be working with. This it made our abilities to accomplish our mission much easier.
4. Why is studying/knowing history important?
In my own personal career it was very critical to know everything we could about the history, culture, beliefs, values and mindset of those we interacted with. It was also important that we knew our U.S. History as well because many of the other countries have a different historical perspective/version of the United States of America. Being able to ensure they had a better understanding of our own history was critical to interacting with them.
In my own Tribe, (Sappony), it was very crucial for us to get the Truth and Real Facts about our own history in order to be recognized by the Federal and State Governments. Our history got very distorted over the years because nothing was written down or recorded so it has been a very intense tasking to research and recover the True History of our Tribe.
5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?
No matter where I was assigned or stationed I found it very interesting to immerse myself into that’s country’s culture where I learned a much better historical perspective than what was taught to me in the schools. I was known as the officer who would “Go Native” no matter where I was stationed which helped me have a much better understanding of what makes that country/culture tick. Which in turn it helped earn the respect of the people of that country because we understood their history.
My most favorite period or aspect of history is studying my own Tribal History. I have learned a lot about my Tribe through the use of new technology that was not available to my parents and elders back in their days.
6. What is the mission of the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation and how did it start?
The Army Aviation Heritage Foundation (AAHF) is a national, one-of-a-kind non-profit all-volunteer organization composed of Veterans, their families, and civilian supporters. The AAHF is acting to connect the American soldier to the American public as an active, accepted, and admired member of the American family by presenting the story of Army Aviation and the American soldier. The AAHF is providing America an opportunity to hear its Veterans share their stories and see its military legacy in flight and in action.
7. Why is it important to preserve this part of history?
AAHF offers a unique one-of-a-kind opportunity to actually experience the feelings, sights, sounds and smell of what it was like to fly in vintage Army combat aircraft. Going to a museum or looking at an aircraft on top of a static pole cannot begin to compare with the experiential emotional feelings that one encounters flying in these unique aircraft. It almost defies description.
“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana