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BC community praises Marines-bound A.J. Tigertail

BIG CYPRESS — When A.J. Tigertail told his family he was joining the military, they were surprised.

“His mom told us. I was stunned that he was interested,” Tigertail’s grandfather Jonah Cypress said during a Big Cypress community meeting Oct. 8 when Tribal officials, family members and other community members recognized Tigertail for his decision to join the U.S. Marine Corps.

A.J. Tigertail talks to the audience at a Big Cypress community meeting Oct. 8 while President Mitchell Cypress listens. Tigertail, 19, has decided to join the U.S. Marine Corps; President Cypress previously served in the U.S. Army. (Photo Analicia Austin)

When asked what inspired him to join the Marines, Tigertail, 19, joked that he watched too many movies.

He also stressed that it was important to him to follow in the footsteps of previous Tribal members who served and represented the Tribe in the Armed Forces, like U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Herman L. Osceola, who died in a military helicopter accident in South Korea in 1984 at the age of 23.

The gymnasium where the community meeting was held is filled with recognitions of Lance Cpl. Osceola, including a bronze sculpture outside the front door, portraits in the gym and the name of the facility: the Herman L. Osceola Gymnasium.

A.J. Tigertail, center, is joined by his grandfather Jonah Cypress, left, and Big Cypress Councilman David Cypress. (Photo Analicia Austin)

Tigertail, son of Sheli and Alfonso Tigertail, said his initial interest in the Marines started when he realized it was a way to learn new skills and travel the world. He said the Marines are “known as the best, and are the first one to do stuff.”

Tigertail received praise at the meeting from Tribal leaders.

A.J. Tigertail is surrounded by his family, who showed their support to the future U.S. Marine at the Big Cypress community meeting. (Photo Analicia Austin)

“I like to see the young ones go and serve our country,” said President Mitchell Cypress, who served in the U.S. Army for three years.

“He is doing the community good,” added Big Cypress Councilman David Cypress. “I am proud of the young man and his family. He is going in the right direction.”

Tigertail, who will start with bootcamp in November, said he’s hopeful he’ll learn a lot from his time in the Marines and bring his experiences back to the Tribe.