(L to R) Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Tribal Councilor Julia Coates, Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Jeffery Buttram and Tribal Councilor Jack Baker.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation honored three veterans with the Cherokee Medal of Patriotism at its November Tribal Council meeting.
Jeffery Buttram, 46, of Shawnee; Raymond McGee Jr., 66, of Lawton; and John “Wes” Benge, 64, of Park Hill, received a medal and plaque from Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden on Nov. 12, acknowledging their service to the country.
Senior Airman Buttram was born July 27, 1967, to Johnnie and Prissy Buttram, in Muskogee. The Stigler native graduated from Stigler High School in 1985 and Carl Albert State College in Poteau in 1987. Buttram enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1991 and completed basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. He received computer systems technical training in Biloxi, Miss., before being stationed at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City. Buttram aided in the development and management of software tracking programs at the base during the majority of his service. Buttram served one year in South Korea as an engineering specialist and database manager of the Theater Battle Management System at Osan Air Base. Buttram was also a first responder during the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
“I’m very humbled by this award,” Buttram said. “It not only goes to me, but to all the warriors that have served before us.”
Buttram received an honorable discharge in 1999 and received numerous honors for his service, including the U.S. Air Force Commendation Medal, U.S. Air Force National Defense Medal and U.S. Air Force Material Command Inspector General Outstanding Performer. He now lives in Shawnee with his wife, Maya. The couple has four children and five grandchildren.
Cpl. Raymond McGee Jr. was born Sept. 22, 1947, to Raymond McGee Sr. and Veronica Gillis, in Tahlequah. McGee was raised in Muskogee but graduated from Winslow High School in Winslow, Ariz. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1967 and completed basic training at Parris Island, S.C. McGee trained as a basic field artilleryman and was sent to South Vietnam. He served in Vietnam and received an honorable discharge in 1969. McGee received numerous honors, including Presidential Unit Citation, National Defense Service Ribbon and Combat Action Ribbon.
He returned to Tahlequah and earned a Bachelor of Science in biology from Northeastern State University. He worked as a licensed paramedic for 25 years in Oklahoma. McGee now lives in Lawton with his wife, Gayle. The couple has four children. He has been the commander of the Boomer Detachment 1288 of the Marine Corps League in Lawton, and currently serves as the judge advocate for the detachment.
Pfc. Benge was born Sept. 3, 1949, to W.R. and Charlene Benge, in Enid. Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1969, Benge completed basic training and advanced infantry training at Fort Lewis in Washington. After graduation into the infantry, he was assigned to the 4th Infantry Division and the unit in Pleiku, Vietnam. While serving in Vietnam, Benge’s father passed away after a heart attack and received an honorable release for one year to go home and support his family. The U.S. Army gave him an honorable discharge ten months after returning home with orders to finish his military obligation in the reserves until 1975. While helping his mother raise his siblings, Benge wanted to help returning veterans and joined the largest veterans’ organization in the world, the American Legion. Benge has held every level of office at both the local and state levels, recently finishing a term as the state commander. He is the only legionnaire from Cherokee County to have been elected to the highest position in the veterans’ organization. He currently serves on the national executive committee and represents Oklahoma as one of the 50 members of the board of directors. Benge has served on numerous other capacities regarding veterans’ affairs, including chairman of the USS Batfish War Memorial in Muskogee and as War Veterans Commissioner, where he oversees the Oklahoma Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Benge currently lives in Park Hill with his wife, Jeannie.
Each month Cherokee Nation recognizes Cherokee service men and women 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. To nominate a veteran who is a Cherokee Nation citizen, please call 918-453-5541 or 800-256-0671, ext. 5541.
Cherokee Nation News Release
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