Miss Cherokee Julie Thornton, Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Chief Joe Crittenden and Jr. Miss Cherokee LaNice Belcher participate in the wreath ceremony during the Cherokee Nation’s “Honoring Our Veterans” program.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation honored about 250 veterans Friday during a breakfast and wreath ceremony for the Veterans Day holiday. Veterans who served in Vietnam or the Korean War, and even active-duty military from all branches, filled the new $2 million Cherokee Nation Veterans Center, which will officially open soon.
“I respect and admire all men and women donning a uniform and for playing such an important role in securing and defending our liberties,” said Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, a U.S. Navy veteran who served in Vietnam. “I know firsthand the extreme sacrifices that are made during war and military conflicts. On behalf of the Cherokee Nation, we are eternally grateful to all those who served.”
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. The Cherokee Nation has more than 4,000 veterans. Oklahoma boasts the second most Native American veterans of any state, with 14,348, according to a U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs report.
“The Cherokees have always honored and revered our warriors for making sacrifices to protect our freedom,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “It’s important to honor these brave men and women each year, and with the new Cherokee Nation Veterans Center, it will serve as a home for veterans year round to be among their brothers and sisters who also fought. These veterans will now be able to receive any services they may need or just drink a cup of coffee in a welcoming space.”
Army Major Dr. Christopher Caldwell, who just completed an optometry program at W.W. Hastings Hospital, attended the breakfast and wreath ceremony.
“The Cherokees have a long history of honorable service to the country,” Caldwell said. “The Cherokee Nation’s veterans’ ceremony serves as a reminder to everyone that every veteran’s service is important and a sacrifice and deserves to be recognized.”
During the program, Chief Baker and Deputy Crittenden honored Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff and Oklahoma Rep. Chuck Hoskin Sr. with a Cherokee Medal of Patriotism.
Hoskin, of Vinita, is a Navy veteran. He served during Vietnam. Hoskin graduated as Honor Man in advanced general aircraft training in Millington, Tenn., and at advanced training on the F4 Phantom at Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va. He served as a flight deck “Green Shirt” on the U.S.S. Independence, working on flight ejector seats and pressurization systems. Hoskin received an honorable discharge in 1973.
Hoskin’s grandparents had four children in the military, and only his father returned safely home. One uncle gave his last full measure of devotion on a battlefield in France during WWI, and another uncle died soon after from mustard gas damage to his lungs. Another uncle was disabled in WW II.
“Like most veterans, I seek no special recognition. Just having the satisfaction of knowing I served our great nation is enough,” Hoskin said. “I am both humbled and honored to have been recognized as a Cherokee Patriot for Veterans Day by our Chief, and I accept this medal in honor of all of my family members who have served before me.”
For more information on Native American service statistics click here. For more information on Cherokee Nation veteran services, call 800-256-0671 ext. 5695 or 5693.
Cherokee Nation News Release
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