By Jason Golfinos, Staff Attorney
California Indian Legal Services wishes to honor all of the Native people who have served in the United States armed forces. Native people have served in the military from the beginning of the country, putting their lives on the line for their communities even in service of a government that frequently did not value their cultures. Native people have thus created their own, proud tradition of military service and continue to be disproportionately represented in the U.S.’s armed forces compared to other ethnic groups.
CILS also wants to highlight and honor the service of Native people whose sacrifice and time in service has not received the respect it is due from military. Often due to the armed forces historical lack of understanding of conditions like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and of the impact of sexual harassment and/or assault, some service members have unjustly left the military with a discharge status other than “honorable.” Such people often dislike even being called “veterans” due to the treatment or neglect they received from the military, which often mistook substance use or other mental health struggles linked to dealing with trauma for character flaws and not as the symptoms they were. These Native folks who have received less-than-honorable discharges deserve to be honored and remembered as much as any other person who served, especially on a day called “Veterans’ Day.”
To help Native folks with less-than-honorable discharges find better employment opportunities, receive the recognition they deserve from the government, and gain peace of mind, CILS is building a new Military Discharge Upgrade Project. This project assists Native people in California to petition the Department of Defense to retroactively upgrade their discharge status, especially where their discharge from the military related to PTSD, TBI, sexual harassment and/or assault, identifying as LGBTQ+ or Two-Spirit, or other discrimination or mistreatment in the armed forces. If you have any questions concerning the program or know someone that you think could benefit from these services, please call (916) 978-0960 or email Jason Golfinos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chairman of the Board, Trustee
Chairman Romero is Chairman of the Board of Trustees for CILS and was the Tribal Chairman for the Mesa Grande Band of Mission Indians for over ten years. He is currently a member of the National Institutes of Health Tribal Advisory Committee (TAC), a forum for meetings between elected Tribal officials (or their designated representatives) and NIH officials to exchange views, share information, and seek advice concerning intergovernmental responsibilities related to the implementation and administration of NIH programs. Chairman Romero has over 11 years of experience working in tribal government. In addition to his role as Chairman of the Board, he is also chair of the Personnel Committee, Acting Chair of the Finance Committee, Executive Committee, and Legislative Committee.