Cherokee Veterans Share Experiences on Second Annual Cherokee Warrior Flight

Cherokee World War II veterans stand with Cherokee Nation leaders at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday Sept. 29. Front Row (L to R): Billy Durall, of Arizona; Monroe Hembree, of Stilwell; Dean Durall, of Utah; Virgil Carter of Tahlequah. Second Row: Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree; Charles Scott, of California; Valentino Burnett, of Eucha; Gerald Zellner, of Big Cabin; Winfred Chamberlain, of Texas; Cherokee Nation Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden; and Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin Sr.

Cherokee World War II veterans stand with Cherokee Nation leaders at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday Sept. 29. Front Row (L to R): Billy Durall, of Arizona; Monroe Hembree, of Stilwell; Dean Durall, of Utah; Virgil Carter of Tahlequah. Second Row: Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree; Charles Scott, of California; Valentino Burnett, of Eucha; Gerald Zellner, of Big Cabin; Winfred Chamberlain, of Texas; Cherokee Nation Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden; and Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin Sr.

Published October 2, 2015

TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA  —Many of the 11 war veterans aboard the Cherokee Nation’s Cherokee Warrior Flight got to see for the first time this week the granite war memorials in Washington, D.C., erected to honor their service.

“They didn’t have the memorials when I was here 30 years ago, so this has been a wonderful trip put on by the Cherokee Nation,” said World War II Navy veteran Charles Scott, who transcribed radio messages in Braille code aboard a submarine some 70 years ago. “The best part was seeing it all with other Cherokee veterans.”

The eight World War II and three Korean War veterans aboard the second annual Cherokee Warrior Flight returned to Tulsa late Wednesday after spending three days in Washington, D.C., touring the National World War II, Korean and Vietnam War memorials and U.S. Capitol building.

Cherokee World War II veterans stand with Cherokee Nation leaders at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday Sept. 29. Front Row (L to R): Billy Durall, of Arizona; Monroe Hembree, of Stilwell; Dean Durall, of Utah; Virgil Carter of Tahlequah. Second Row: Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree; Charles Scott, of California; Valentino Burnett, of Eucha; Gerald Zellner, of Big Cabin; Winfred Chamberlain, of Texas; Cherokee Nation Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden; and Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin Sr.

Cherokee World War II veterans stand with Cherokee Nation leaders at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday Sept. 29. Front Row (L to R): Billy Durall, of Arizona; Monroe Hembree, of Stilwell; Dean Durall, of Utah; Virgil Carter of Tahlequah. Second Row: Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree; Charles Scott, of California; Valentino Burnett, of Eucha; Gerald Zellner, of Big Cabin; Winfred Chamberlain, of Texas; Cherokee Nation Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden; and Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin Sr.

For 82-year-old Army Korean War veteran Ivan Hembree, 82, of Bunch, seeing the faces etched in stone at the Korean War Memorial was on his list of things to do in life.

“It’s a great opportunity that I can mark off my bucket list now,” he said.

U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., met the veterans at the Capitol and thanked them for defending the country. U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla, gave the veterans a Challenge coin for their military service and thanked the wives of the veterans, too.

The Cherokee Warrior Flight is similar to the national Honor Flight organization. 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.

“It was amazing to see these veterans greeted by so many supporters, from the schoolchildren touring the monuments telling them thank you, to the caring citizens in Tulsa holding hero signs when they returned at the airport, this trip was all about honoring them,” Cherokee Nation Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, a Navy Vietnam veteran, said. “We hope these veterans were able to share their experiences and memories with each other while seeing the memorials and know how much the Cherokee Nation appreciates what they did for us.”

Navy World War II veteran Valentino Burnett, 88, of Eucha, was stationed at Pearl Harbor during the war. As he stood at the World War II memorial where a Pearl Harbor inscription was etched into stone, he said it made him think of all the veterans who didn’t return home.

“I think about the people who got killed in the service. War was necessary, but I really hate there were so many lives lost,” he said.

His son, Edward Burnett, was killed in Vietnam. During the trip, he was able to see his son’s name on the Vietnam War Memorial. It was one of the things he said he looked forward to most aboard the warrior flight.

:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email