Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Bryan Warner, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, U.S. Army veteran John Thomas Cripps III, Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Tribal Councilor David Thornton.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation honored three veterans with the Medal of Patriotism at the February Tribal Council meeting.
John Thomas Cripps III, 71, of Sallisaw; John Paul Atkinson, 28, of Owasso; and Jesse James Collins, 28, of Tulsa, received the medals from Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden acknowledging their service to the country.
Capt. Cripps was born Dec. 20, 1945, in Durham, North Carolina, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the armor branch of the United States Army in 1968. He completed armor officer basic training at Fort Knox in Kentucky. Cripps also completed airborne training at Fort Benning, Georgia, and special warfare school at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. During his service, he served as a company commander in Gelnhausen, Germany, and as an advisor to the Vietnamese Rangers. After completing his tour in Vietnam, he was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, and was honorably discharged in 1972. Cripps received several ribbons, medals and badges during his service, including the National Defense Service Medal, Parachutist Badge, Vietnam Service Medal and Army Commendation Medal. Cripps currently serves as an administrative law judge for the Cherokee Nation.
“I want to thank Chief and Deputy Chief and my Tribal Councilors,” Cripps said of the award.
Staff Sgt. Atkinson and Sgt. Collins both served in the Oklahoma Army National Guard and were activated in 2011. They were sent to Afghanistan as part of the Recon 1-279th Regiment, 45th Infantry in June 2011. Over the course of the first few months of their deployment, the platoon was hit with several attacks and lost several soldiers, with many others being injured. In September, the platoon was tasked with taking the valley and securing the route for future missions. Days and days were spent going house to house and mountain summit to mountain summit until it was secure, all without any casualties. Atkinson and Collins’ tour in Afghanistan ended in 2012. Collins received an honorable discharge in 2013, and Atkinson is still serving in the Oklahoma Army National Guard.
“Thank you very much for this award. I wish Jesse could be here, and thank you, John Paul, for always being there for him,” said Collins’ mother, Johnna Knapp, who accepted the award on his behalf.
Collins was in Wyoming and unable to attend.
Each month the 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 918-772-4166.
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