Veterans take part in Cherokee Warrior Flight

(Left to right) Cherokee World War II Veteran John Cockrum, of Tulsa, participated in the 2018 Cherokee Warrior Flight and searched for familiar names during a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall last year.

TAHLEQUAH — The Cherokee Nation’s Sixth annual Cherokee Warrior Flight departed Monday for Washington, D.C., with 10 veterans who served during the Korean War or Vietnam war. 

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

For Army Vietnam War veteran Claude Stover, of Oaks, the flight will be his first to Washington D.C. At 22, he served in recon missions during the war.

“The Warrior Flight is a tribute to the people who were there before me, who didn’t get to come home,” Stover, 72, said. “Keep doing this flight. It’s a good deal, and I appreciate it very much.”

During the trip, veterans will tour the White House, Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian and the U.S. Capitol, and visit the Pentagon 9/11 memorial, among many other sites.

“It’s a great thing that the Cherokee Nation remembers the veterans,” said Korean War Army veteran George Green, 85, of Claremore, who is also going to the nation’s capital.

The Cherokee Nation has taken 50 Cherokee veterans on the Cherokee Warrior Flight over the past six years.

“I’m proud that we are part of a Nation that has the heart and the gratitude for the veterans and the sacrifices they’ve made through the years,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs S. Joe Crittenden, a U.S. Navy veteran of the Vietnam War. “We can say thank you and honor them by showing them the testimonies of their sacrifice.” 

On Sunday, Sept. 8, a dinner was held at Cherokee Hotel and Casino West Siloam Springs to present the warriors with flight vests and caps and wish them safe travels.

Veterans arrived in Washington on Monday morning and explored Capitol Hill.

During the visit, the Cherokee veterans toured the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Wall Memorial and other sites. Veterans are scheduled to return to Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

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

Veterans participating in the 2019 Cherokee Warrior Flight include:

Korean War

Selbert Taylor, 87, Marines, of Pryor

Charles Brave, 86, Army, of Hulbert

George Green, 85, Army, of Claremore

Vietnam War

Billy Cecil, 71, Army, of Park Hill

Billie Tritthart, 71, Army, of Miami

David Hall, 67, Army, of Wister

Claude Stover, 72, Army, of Oaks

Kenneth Golden, 70, Navy, of Stilwell

Charles Lane, 83, Navy, of Claremore

Sammy Carey, 65, Army, of Hulbert

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