Cherokee Nation, with awards and projects, honors its veterans

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The Cherokee Nation honored 14 veterans on Thursday with a trip to Washington, D.C., to view national war memorials erected in their honor. (Courtesy Photo/Cherokee Nation)

The Cherokees show up for their country with a high rate of military service, and the Cherokee Nation shows up for its veterans with a range of service and honors.

The Cherokee Nation continues to work on a new veterans housing project, and on Thursday honored 14 veterans with a trip to view the national war memorials erected in their honor.

“Cherokees serve in the United States military at higher per capita rates than any other ethnicity and have fought in every major conflict and war since the founding of this country,” said Senior Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.

In 2019, during Hoskin’s first 100 days in office, he and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner created the position of Secretary of Veterans Affairs at the Cabinet level, and Hoskin appointed former Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden to be the first to hold this position. Hoskin said the position was created to raise the profile of the veterans program and identify ways to do more for Cherokee veterans.

On Thursday, the annual Cherokee Warrior Flight resumed after the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the event in 2020 and 2021. In its first six years, the Cherokee Warrior Flight has honored a total of 50 veterans with a dinner in their honor and a trip to Washington. , DC, to see the memorials erected related to the wars they fought in.

This year’s dinner was held Wednesday at the Cherokee Hotel and Casino in West Siloam Springs, where the Warriors received flight vests and caps. The 14 veterans in this year’s flight served in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War or Operation Enduring Freedom.

“This trip is dedicated to the men and women who fought to preserve our collective freedoms in this country and to show our gratitude for their service,” Hoskin said.

“It’s such an honor to see the Cherokee Nation continue to support our Cherokee warriors,” Warner said. “It’s a moving and memorable experience for those who participate each year, and I know it’s a trip they’ll never forget.”

During this three-day trip, veterans will visit the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Wall Memorial and other sites. On Veterans Day, they will also participate in the National Native American Veterans Memorial Procession and Dedication Ceremony at the National Museum of the American Indian.

“It means so much to be part of a nation that honors our veterans and the sacrifices they’ve made over the years,” said Crittenden, a U.S. Navy veteran of the Vietnam War. “This trip is just a way to thank them for what they have done for our country.

Michelle Morrison, of Stilwell, is a Navy veteran who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and the first female veteran to take part in a Cherokee Warrior flight.

“I was so excited when they called me and said I could go this year,” Morrison said. “I’m glad I was able to take the opportunity to go. I’m really humble.

“I’ve been trying to go to DC since I got out of Vietnam. I’m ready to go,” said Joe Cummings of Wagoner, who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. “Glad to see all the memorials and Arlington National Cemetery.”

Two of Thursday’s flight veterans served in World War II: Paul Max Dudley, 99, Army, of Bixby; and Paul Fox, 95, Army, of Bartlesville.

Construction continues on 21 new homes for Cherokee veterans, built as part of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Innovative Readiness Training Program. Construction of the three-year project began in 2021.

The Air National Guard, Army National Guard, Naval Reserve and Air Force Reserve Command supplied the workers – Guardsmen and Reservists from 23 states – to build the first seven subsidized single-family homes and the infrastructure needed to support new housing. About 80 workers are on site at any given time.

“We are in direct partnership with the tribe itself,” said Col. George Koklanaris, deputy director of the Innovative Readiness Training program. “They’re bringing their resources, we’re bringing our expertise and talent, and together we’re putting together a wonderful project that will house some of our great veterans.”

“Together through this project, we are giving our service members beneficial training that they will use for the rest of their lives,” Warner said. “But what I’m most proud of is that ultimately we will provide new homes for Cherokee veterans.”

The Cherokee Nation provided the 30 acres for the new housing addition, and the Cherokee Nation Housing Authority provided materials and other basic services for the construction of the new homes. The Housing Authority will manage the property and will soon open the application process to Cherokee veterans.

The new housing addition will be named in honor of the late Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Mige Glory, who served in the US military after being drafted at the age of 18. Glory served as a clerk for the 122nd Evacuation Hospital at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Cherokee veterans continue to serve the United States Armed Forces in various capacities, including companies that contract with the United States Department of Defense. Cherokee Federal – a division of Cherokee Nation Businesses – is a team of tribally owned federal contracting companies with over 60 federal clients. About 20 percent of Cherokee Federal’s 3,700 employees who support government contracts under Cherokee Nation Enterprises are veterans or active-duty reservists, said Ben Elder, director of marketing and communications for Cherokee Federal.

The Cherokee Nation is the largest tribe in the United States. More than 141,000 of the nation’s 440,000 tribal citizens reside in Oklahoma, where the seat of tribal government is the WW Keeler Complex near Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the capital of the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee Nation and its subsidiaries, with 11,000 employees, is one of the largest employers in northeast Oklahoma. A 2018 study found that the country had a $2.16 billion economic impact on Oklahoma’s economy that year alone.

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