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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Chickasaw Veterans Lay Wreath At
Tomb Of The Unknowns
by Gene Lehmann, Chickasaw Times Media Relations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Chickasaw warriors laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery Nov. 10 to honor veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice defending freedom.

Four retired Chickasaw veterans represented their tribe at the national shrine. They included Vietnam veteran and Hank Cease (USMC), of Goose Creek, S.C.; 30-year veteran George Riddle (USA) of Yuma, Ariz.; 21-year veteran Danny Landreth (USN), of Ardmore, Okla.; and Lee Jennings (USAF), of Marlow, Okla., who served in World War II and the Korean War.

"The experience was overwhelming," Mr. Landreth said, "especially to be in the presence of the other great and honorable veterans. To lay the wreath was probably the pinnacle of my military experience.

"You are given an opportunity to represent someone who gave his life, someone who can't speak. We have to speak for them, otherwise they will be forgotten."

Mr. Riddle also said the experience was "the best thing that ever happened to me. It was such an honor and a privilege to represent the group. It just left me speechless and brought tears to my eyes."

Mr. Riddle served two tours of duty fighting in Vietnam during his lengthy military career.

The "group" referenced by Mr. Riddle are 19 retired military veterans who are also citizens of the Chickasaw Nation. Each year, the tribe sends warriors to tour the nation's capital.

Governor Bill Anoatubby, also a veteran, said the trip was an expression of appreciation to Chickasaws who have served our country.

"Veterans Day helps us remember the debt of gratitude we owe the special group of men and women who served in the armed forces," Gov. Anoatubby said. "While this time of year offers a unique opportunity to honor their service, is important that we always remember the sacrifice and dedication of those who gave of themselves to preserve our freedoms and way of life."

This year, the three-day excursion took the warriors to monuments honoring the nation's greatest leaders and sites commemorating wars where Americans have fought with valor and dignity in the name of freedom.

"It is always an emotional thing to honor a soldier, particularly an unknown soldier," Mr. Cease said.

This was the second wreath-laying of Mr. Cease's career. He participated in a ceremony at the Punch Bowl in Hawaii. Formally known as the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, it is located in Honolulu and honors military personnel killed in action.

"I was still an active duty Marine when the Hawaii ceremony was held," Mr. Cease said.

During his second Vietnam tour, he suffered serious wounds and was returned to the U.S. for treatment.

"When I received the card telling me I was a Chickasaw warrior, it was one of my proudest moments," he said.

Approximately two years ago, Gov. Anoatubby was determined to provide the tribe's veterans with increased benefits and recognition. The Chickasaw Warrior Society was launched and the tribe is currently building a Chickasaw Warrior Society building on the campus of the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center in Ada, Okla.

The site was selected to assist veterans from a centralized location. Completion is scheduled for 2017. The staff will assist veterans in accessing all resources available through the Chickasaw Nation and other sources. The facility will also serve as a place for members of the Chickasaw Warrior Society, other veterans and those in active service to come together for fellowship and to build relationships.

At 89, Mr. Jennings stepped out of a wheelchair and walked to lay the wreath. He used only a cane to assist him. After the wreath was placed, he walked back with an active duty soldier flanking him as he rejoined the group.

"It was great," Mr. Jennings said. "I was honored to be asked to do it. God has blessed me and I am blessed to be Chickasaw."

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