Chief Bill John Baker and World War II veteran Charles Carey
TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA —More than 150 veterans were honored for their military service at the Cherokee Nation Veterans Center Monday. Also honored were fallen Cherokee warriors who never made it home from war.
The Cherokee Nation’s annual Veterans Day breakfast on Monday was emceed by Cherokee Nation Deputy Chief and Navy Vietnam veteran S. Joe Crittenden and Principal Chief Bill John Baker, who presented red caps to each veteran.
Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin Sr. read excerpts from the U.S. Military Code of Conduct as a reminder of why men and women serve their country.
“I served this country for the same reason that I’m sure many of our veterans would say they served— so that the future generations of our families might not ever have to,” said Hoskin, also a Navy Vietnam veteran. “As veterans, we fought for more than just a body of land. We fought for the principles of freedom that make up our way of life. For that, I’m thankful to all veterans and those who have supported them.”
Damien Cookson, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and now works at W.W. Hastings Hospital stopped by, eating bacon and eggs with other military veterans.
“I just really appreciate everything the Cherokee Nation has done to recognize veterans. The veterans center, with all this memorabilia, is a good scene for the veterans to get together and swap stories and host things like this,” Cookson said.
World War II Navy veteran Charles Carey of Hulbert came with his daughter Nora.
Carey was among seven Cherokee World War II veterans to participate in the Cherokee Nation’s first ever Warrior Flight. The tribe flew Carey and others to Washington D.C. this past September to see the National World War II Memorial for the first time.
“It changed my life for the better,” said Carey, who flew on an airplane for the first time at 88. “I sure appreciate everything about it. It gave me new energy in a way. I wish everybody could have the opportunity to go and see the sights. I really appreciate Cherokee Nation for doing this for us.”
Principal Chief Baker and Deputy Chief Crittenden closed the program by leading a wreath-laying ceremony to remember those veterans who have passed on.
The Cherokee Nation regularly recognizes Cherokee service men and women for their sacrifices to freedom, and as a way to demonstrate the high regard in which the tribe holds all veterans. On their behalf, the center was opened to provide veterans a place to gather and receive information on veteran benefits offered by both the tribe and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.