Cherokee citizen and World War II veteran Virgil Carter is among 11 veterans participating in the 2015 Cherokee Warrior Flight Sept. 28-30. Carter broke his hip and was unable to attend last year but later received an honor flight jacket to wear on this year’s trip. (Photo Courtesy: Will Chavez/Cherokee Phoenix)
Published September 27, 2015
TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA — World War II veteran Virgil Carter hated to miss the inaugural Cherokee Warrior Flight after he fell and broke his hip this time last year, but he says nothing is stopping him from being on board when it leaves Monday, Sept. 28.
For the second straight year the Cherokee Nation is funding a Cherokee Warrior Flight for veterans to see the national memorials dedicated in honor of their service. On Monday it will take eight Cherokee World War II veterans and three Korean War veterans to Washington, D.C., to tour the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Arlington Cemetery and other sites.
“I’m ready to go and be with other World War II veterans, because there aren’t many of us left. Less and less, every day,” said Carter, 88, of Tahlequah, who at the age of 18 disposed of guns and ammunition in Italy during the end of the war.
Last year, Cherokee World War II veteran Charles Harnage passed away a month before the trip.
Among the flight passengers this year are a Pearl Harbor survivor, four veteran brothers from Adair County and two veteran brothers who live in different states reuniting for the trip. The 11 on board also represent all military branches and range in age from 82 to 94.
“The purpose of this trip is to honor Cherokee war veterans. We want these brave men and others like them who served to defend our collective freedoms to know that their sacrifices are appreciated, and they will never be forgotten,” said Cherokee Nation Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, a Navy Vietnam veteran. “I was fortunate to travel with the inaugural Cherokee Warrior Flight and was deeply moved by the outpouring of support and thanks our Cherokee veterans received from total strangers as we traveled to Washington D.C. They are humble men who are real-life heroes, and they deserve all the respect we can give them.”
The Cherokee Warrior Flight is similar to the national Honor Flight organization’s goal of helping all veterans, willing and able, to see the memorials dedicated to honor their service. With more than 4,000 military veterans who are Cherokee Nation citizens, the Cherokee Nation is replicating that experience for its people. Native Americans serve at a higher rate in the military than any other ethnic group.
The veterans participating on the 2015 Cherokee Warrior Flight include the following:
World War II
Navy veteran Bill Durall, 89, of Green Valley, Arizona
Marine Corps veteran Dean Durall, 91, of Mapleton, Utah
Navy veteran Winfred “Wink” Chamberlain, 94, Texas City, Texas
Army veteran Virgil Carter, 88, of Tahlequah, Oklahoma
Navy and Coast Guard veteran Charles Scott, 91, of Palo Alto, California
Army Air Force veteran Gerald Zellner, 92, of Big Cabin, Oklahoma
Navy veteran Valentine “Tino” Burnett, 88, of Eucha, Oklahoma
Army veteran Monroe Hembree, 93, of Stilwell, Oklahoma
Army veteran Dan Hembree, 80, of Westville, Oklahoma
Air Force veteran Alfred Hembree, 84, of Westville, Oklahoma
Army veteran Ivan Hembree, 82, of Bunch, Oklahoma
From 5-7 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 27, a dinner and reception will be held at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Chief Crittenden and members of Tribal Council will thank the 11 veterans for their service and wish them safe travels.
At 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 28, there will be a send-off ceremony with signs and applause from Cherokee Nation Businesses employees at Hard Rock for the veterans as they leave for the Tulsa airport. On Tuesday the group will visit the World War II Memorial and take a tour of other monuments. On Wednesday, the veterans will tour the U.S. Capitol and arrive back in Tulsa that evening.