By Karin Eagle, Native Sun News Staff Writer
RAPID CITY – Major Stephanie R. Griffith, USMC, an enrolled member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, has been awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service to her country. She has served in the Marine Corps for 13 years,
Her primary job in Afghanistan was to assist the State Department in its relations with the local governors of the province that they were in. She also worked as a liaison between the U.S. State Department, the British State Department, the Marine commanders on the ground and the people of the Majarh, Helmands Province in Afghanistan. She spent seven months on the ground in this capacity, from October 2010 through May 2011.
During her time in Afghanistan, Griffith, who was born in Rosebud, witnessed the treatment of the women of Afghanistan. She stated that there were few instances when she actually witnessed women active in their society. The majority of the women follow local custom and stay behind doors, regardless of what is going on in their towns. In a couple of instances, Griffith felt a certain level of animosity toward herself and the other female Marines when a few local men threw stones at them as they passed by. Beyond that, she was afforded a good amount of respect, most likely because of her position, which put her in contact with many of the local businessmen in the area where she was stationed.
When asked about any attention she might have received because of her race, Griffith admitted that all the soldiers were seen as Americans, and because the Afghanistan people are a little more sheltered from the world due to an overall lack of technology, many of the local people had no idea what it was to be a Native American or know to notice any differences between the races of Americans. The Iraqi people knew a little more but, in general, were not impressed.
Griffith also expressed a general mood amongst the U.S. soldiers as being “What are we doing here?”
“We thought we could answer the questions with brute force, but the planners and executioners were dealing with too many unknowns,” said Griffith, when explaining the mood of the soldiers.
Griffith graduated from Riggs High School in Pierre and went on to earn her bachelor of art degree in history and anthropology from the University of Iowa in 1993. After graduation, she joined the Marine Corps and went on to become part of the USMC Civil Affairs officers.
When asked about her opinion on how veterans are dealt with by the U.S. people and the government they defend, Griffith was very diplomatic in asserting that the transition between soldier and civilian was difficult, at best.
“I think that the veterans need to be acknowledged for their service, and they need to be shown better care during and after the transition,” she said.
(Contact Karin Eagle at email@example.com) Copyright permission by Native Sun News. www.nsweekly.com