April 20, 2012
Robert R. Ladd was one of four Cherokee veterans honored recently by the Cherokee Nation for his military service. (left to right) Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Ladd, Principal Chief Bill John Baker, and Tribal Councilors Meredith Frailey, Dick Lay and Chuck Hoskin Jr. as Ladd is honored during the April Tribal Council meeting.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. —Four Cherokee Nation veterans were honored with the Cherokee Medal of Patriotism at this month’s Tribal Council meeting in Tahlequah. The four represent an array of military branches, including the Marines, the Air Force, the Navy and the Army Reserves.
Johnnie Richard Sanders was born January 16, 1930, to Nellie and Harry Sanders. He served in the Marine Corps from 1952 to 1954 and is a Korean War veteran. After his time in the military, Sanders continued along his path of service.
“When I got out, I kept wanting to do something for the people,” said Sanders. “The Cherokee people had their own ambulance service, and I went there to see if I could be used for some reason. And so, I got on.”
Sanders worked for the Cherokee Nation as an emergency medical technician and then as an Adair County deputy sheriff for a total of 18 years. He enjoys hunting wild onions, fishing and spending time with his dogs. Sanders has eight children, two stepsons, 16 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren. He lives in Stilwell with his wife, Wanda.
Robert R. Ladd was born in February 1932 on a farm north of Dewey to Bill and Vera Bellmyer Ladd. He went to school in Copan and took a job with the Bartlesville Fire Department in 1950. Ladd enlisted in the Air Force in 1951 and deployed to Korea for 13 months where he served as a military policeman.
“The winter I was there, it would stay pretty cold most of the time–up around 35 below zero,” said Ladd. “We lived in tents, and we slept some in foxholes. A lot of the men lost their arms and legs from frostbite. That was one of the worst things. People don’t really realize it, the younger people today, that we had 53,000 men killed there. They think it was just a police action–not much happening–but there was a lot happening.”
Ladd returned to the U.S. and completed his military service in New Mexico. He was honorably discharged in March 1955. Ladd then resumed his career with the Bartlesville Fire Department, reached the rank of chief, and retired after 31 years. He married Rosalie Murguia in December 1952 .The couple has a son, a daughter, a grandson and a granddaughter.
John C. Richey was born in February 1970 to M.C. and Sharon Russell Richey in Muskogee and attended Okay High School before going to work as an emergency medical technician, a job he has done for more than 14 years. Richey holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and enlisted in the Army Reserve in 2009 as a financial management technician. He is currently serving in Kuwait.
Richey married Donna Tritthart in 2001. He has 8 children: Matthew, Nicholas, Danita, Blaine, Lucas, Rosanne, Cody and Jaxon. The family resides in Cherokee County.
Jack Lee Ballew was honored posthumously. He was born July 17, 1937, to Billie and Comanche Still Ballew and died March 27, 2012. He attended the Oklahoma Military Academy before serving in the Navy for four years. Ballew was in charge of electronics on his ship.
After studying chemistry, physics and electrical engineering at Northeastern State College and Oklahoma State University, Ballew worked for W.A. Chester, Inc., a New York based electric company, before joining his brother as a partner in a construction firm, owning a small computer company and finally selling life insurance before retiring. He served a term on the Tahlequah City Council, was active in the Lions Club and the Democratic Party and was a member of American Legion Post 50.
The Cherokee Nation honors Cherokee service men and women during regular Tribal Council meetings as a way to thank them for their sacrifices for their country and as a way to demonstrate the high regard in which all veterans are held by the tribe. Statistically and historically, Native Americans, including Cherokees, are thought to hold the highest record of military service per capita of any ethnic group, according to the Department of Defense.
If you know a veteran that you would like to see honored by the Cherokee Nation, please call 918- 453-5541 or 800-256-0671, ext. 5541, to nominate them. To be eligible for recognition, a veteran must be a Cherokee Nation citizen.
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