Cherokee veterans greeted by well wishers this past week in Washington, DC.
“At a time in their lives when their days and nights should have been filled with innocent adventure, love, and the lessons of the workaday world, they were fighting in the most primitive conditions possible across the bloodied landscape of France, Belgium, Italy, Austria, and the coral islands of the Pacific. They answered the call to save the world from the two most powerful and ruthless military machines ever assembled, instruments of conquest in the hands of fascist maniacs. They faced great odds and a late start, but they did not protest. They succeeded on every front. They won the war; they saved the world.”
–Tom Brokaw, The Greatest Generation
Honoring our warriors is the Cherokee way. We have always held in the highest regard those men and women who are willing to go into battle to protect and defend all of our freedoms. That is why I am so proud we recently held our inaugural Cherokee Warrior flight. We flew seven World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., so they could visit war memorials and other sites in our nation’s capital.
The Cherokee Warrior Flight, funded solely by the Cherokee Nation, allowed these veterans to see the memorials dedicated to honor their service for the first time. With more than 4,000 military veterans who are Cherokee Nation citizens, we have always known the responsibility of protecting our country, just like our fellow tribes. Native Americans serve at a higher rate in the military than any other ethnic group, and we are proud to do so.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker
I am so honored we were able to provide this opportunity to these seven Cherokee veterans: Navy veteran Steve Downing Jr., 89, of Locust Grove; Navy veteran Dewey Alberty, 88, of Tahlequah; Navy veteran Charles Carey, 88, of Hulbert; Army veteran Guy Wilson, 97, of Hulbert; Army Air Corp veteran William Wood, 94, of Vinita; Army veteran Eugene Fox, 91, of Bartlesville; and Navy veteran Joseph Leathers, 92, of Big Cabin.
These men who served in World War II tell us this was the trip of a lifetime.
With our allies, their service helped liberate millions. They are truly the greatest generation. WWII was a war the United States had to win, and these men should be honored for their role in history. We plan to make the Cherokee Warrior flight an annual event. This is a way to say thank you to our Cherokee veterans and to let them know that we will never forget their service and sacrifices.
These men, and a half a million other brave servicemen who never made it home, paved the way for America’s victory in WWII, and we are forever grateful. We will always respect that war experience and what it means for us as a society. God bless all these brave men who served for us to live free.
Bill John Baker is principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.