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5th annual Cherokee Warrior Flight departs Monday

TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s fifth annual Cherokee Warrior Flight departs Monday for Washington, D.C., with 10 veterans who served during World War II, the Korean War or the Vietnam War.

Each year, the CN funds the flight for Cherokee veterans to see the national war memorials erected in their honor at the nation’s capital. 

For Army Korean War veteran Charles “Curtis” Brave, of Hulbert, the flight will be his first to Washington, D.C. At 19, he drove a tanker truck carrying groceries, artillery, and supplies to the men at the battle of “Old Baldy.” 

“I’ve only seen the Korean War Veterans Memorial in pictures, so now is a good time to go,” Brave, 84, said. “I can look back and see how sad a day it was for the men in the snow, knee deep in the cold, cold, cold.” 

On Sept. 17-19, veterans will tour the White House, Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian and the U.S. Capitol, and for the first time, they will present a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery. 

“I’m honored the tribe is doing this for us,” said World War II Navy veteran John Cockrum, of Tulsa. “We sacrificed and gave up our time for our country and need to go see these sites and appreciate them.” 

Cockrum, 91, steered a submarine, the USS Piranha, sinking enemy ships and surviving several charge attacks during the war. He served from 1943-46. 

“We continue to lose more and more of our Cherokee Warriors who gave so much for this country and our freedom. This Warrior Flight is a unique opportunity for the Cherokee Nation to thank our real-life heroes who deserve so much of our respect,” Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, a U.S. Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, said. “We have an obligation to never forget their sacrifices.” 

The CN has taken 42 veterans on the Cherokee Warrior Flight during the years. 

At 5 p.m. on Sunday, a dinner will be held at Cherokee Hotel & Casino West Siloam Springs to present the warriors with flight vests and caps and wish them safe travels. 

At 5 a.m. on Monday, veterans will be greeted by Cherokee Hotel & Casino West Siloam Springs employees waving flags and signs as they depart for the Fayetteville Regional Airport. 

On Monday and Tuesday, the veterans will tour the World War II, Korean War Veterans, and Vietnam Wall memorials as well as other sites. Veterans return to Fayetteville at 6:50 p.m. on Wednesday and will be escorted by the motorcycle group Patriot Riders back to West Siloam Springs. 

The Cherokee Warrior Flight is similar to the national Honor Flight organization’s goal of helping all veterans, willing and able, see the memorials dedicated to honor their service. With more than 4,000 military veterans who are CN citizens, the CN is replicating that experience for its people. Native Americans serve at a higher rate in the military than any other ethnic group. 

The veterans participating in the 2018 Cherokee Warrior Flight are:

World War II
John Cockrum, 91, Navy, of Tulsa

Korean War
Jimmie Routh, 79, Air Force, of Aurora, Missouri
Hosea Wallis, 85, Army, of Claremore
Howard Holloway, 86, Army, of Claremore
Charles Brave, 84, Army, of Hulbert
Bennie Ross, 86, Army, of Tahlequah

Vietnam War
Russell Feeling, 73, Air Force, of Locust Grove
Terry Rattlinggourd, 70, Army, of Pryor
George Cochran, 70, Army, of Oaks
S. Joe Crittenden, 73, Navy, of Stilwell


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