(L to R) Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin, Congressman Markwayne Mullin, Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Oklahoma Secretary of State Chris Benge, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden and Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd stand in front of the new Cherokee Warrior Memorial.
Published November 19, 2015
TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA —The Cherokee Nation honored more than 200 military veterans by hosting a breakfast and unveiling a new Cherokee Warrior Memorial Tuesday for Veterans Day.
The 12-foot-tall Cherokee Warrior Memorial replaces a decade-old, failing structure with a durable, granite memorial that reads, “A grateful Cherokee Nation dedicates this memorial to all Cherokee men and women, both living and dead, who have defended their families, their people and their homeland.”
The words are etched in both Cherokee syllabary and English.
“Cherokees have long served and protected the freedoms of this nation and its citizens, and we cannot say thank-you enough to these fearless men and women,” said Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, a Navy veteran who served during Vietnam. “It’s important that the Cherokee Nation and its citizens do all we can to honor and show support for those who stepped forward and answered the call to serve, and all those in the front lines today.”
A free breakfast was held in the Cherokee Nation Veterans Center, and a wreath-laying ceremony was held to remember the fallen warriors who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
The Cherokee Nation also honored four Cherokee military veterans with the Medal of Patriotism during the event.
William Barnes Jr., 41, of Park Hill; Brandon Morris, 33, of Frisco, Texas; Trenton Hickman, 42, of Wilmington, North Carolina; and John David Jordan, 52, of Pryor, received the medal acknowledging their service to the country from Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief Crittenden.
Sgt. Barnes joined the military in 1991 and served in Operation Desert Storm, as well as Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He served as a team and squad leader in a recon platoon in southern Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Barnes completed over 300 combat patrols and maintained a 100 percent mission success and completion rate. He also conducted special security missions for distinguished visitors, current and incoming Air Force units, and Marine Corps high-ranking personnel. Barnes retired from the military in 2005. He earned numerous medals, including the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, three National Defense Medals and more.
“I am really proud of my time in the service, and to have my service recognized by my tribe is really an honor,” said Barnes, who now works for Congressman Markwayne Mullin’s office.
Spc. Morris joined the U.S. Navy in 2000 and was medically discharged due to a shoulder injury seven months later. After recovering from the injury, Morris enlisted with the Army National Guard in 2001. He was called to active duty from August 2004 to January 2006 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He performed in numerous vehicle and foot patrols, raids, searches and reconnaissance and surveillance missions. Morris was honorably discharged in 2006 and earned numerous medals for his service, including the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal and more.
Maj. Hickman enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1991 and has spent 22 years in the Army National Guard, Army Reserve and active duty components. In 2003, Hickman was deployed as an infantry platoon leader with the Oklahoma Army National Guard to the Middle East during Operation Enduring Freedom. He also served as a detachment commander in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Hickman currently serves as the active duty operations officer at a Reserve Special Operations Battalion in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has been awarded numerous medals, including the Bronze Star Medal, two Army Commendation Medals, the Meritorious Service Medal and more.
Sgt. 1st Class Jordan enlisted in the Oklahoma Army National Guard in 1985. During his service, Jordan served at several locations, including Fort McClellan, Alabama, where he attended active duty basic non-commissioned officer reclassification training. Jordan was deployed in 2004 to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Jordan retired in 2007 and has been active in the American Legion, where he currently serves as a member of the executive committee. Jordan earned several ribbons and medals, including the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, two National Defense Service Medals and more.
The Cherokee Nation estimates there are more than 4,000 Cherokee veterans and opened a veterans center last year on their behalf.
The Cherokee Nation also started a Cherokee Warrior Flight to take aging Cherokee veterans to see the Washington, D.C., war memorials. The tribe recognizes Cherokee service men and women each month during Tribal Council meetings for their sacrifices and as a way to demonstrate the high regard in which all veterans are held by the tribe. Native Americans, including Cherokees, are thought to have more citizens serving per capita than any other ethnic group, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
For more information, call the Veterans Center at 918-772-4166.