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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Leon Edwards Understands The Meaning Of 'Brotherhood'
by KC Cole, Public Affairs - Chickasaw Times
Leon Edwards of Tussy, Oklahoma, sums up the brotherhood of soldiers in one sentence: "Being close to them made me feel safer." Mr. Edwards is September"s featured veteran in the 2017 Chickasaw Nation Calendar.

Born on the family farm in Tussy, Okla., Leon Edwards came from a large, loving family. A U.S. Army draftee serving during the Korean War, he learned the connections needed to form family bonds come from more than just blood.

Mr. Edwards, who had six brothers and sisters, formed a special relationship with his father that would outline his life. When his mother passed away he was just seven years old, Mr. Edwards and his siblings took on the responsibility of caring for their father. The obligations to his family and the farm became heavy enough that he received a draft deferment during World War II.

"My father was the best," Mr. Edwards said. "I tried to cook for him - biscuits, macaroni and cheese, ham, steak - things he liked. I never thought about caring for daddy. I knew I had to do it. I enjoyed it. I had three brothers in the war, but I received a farm deferment because I had to take care of daddy. It was after daddy passed away that I was drafted."

Like many who have served in the armed forces, Mr. Edwards responded to his nation's call to be a soldier.

"I really hated to leave home," he said. "I was lonely for a long time, but I made friends. The two years went by pretty fast."

Living conditions were harsh in Korea. Mr. Edwards was stationed along the border between North and South Korea. Korea's Demilitarized Zone continues to be one of the most disputed and dangerous places on Earth. It is filled with razor wire and is heavily mined. The terrain is mountainous and the climate includes bitterly cold winters and short, hot summers. Mr. Edwards endured these seasons in cramped canvas tents with other soldiers.

Arriving immediately following the cessation of hostilities, he spent the majority of his time guarding buildings, checkpoints and performing other mundane tasks to which all soldiers become accustomed. He found his calling while serving in the Army when he volunteered to train as a cook. His fellow soldiers, and his superiors, enjoyed the recipes he had perfected when he cared for
his father.

"I made biscuits just like I did for daddy," Mr. Edwards said. "The guys loved them. I was more satisfied being a cook than standing around pulling guard duty or cleaning trucks."

The comradery among Mr. Edwards and his fellow soldiers produced lifelong friendships. He continues to cherish a photograph of Sergeant Peters, a man who looked after him while he was in the service. Mr. Edwards stayed in contact with many other men from his unit.

"Being close to them made me safer," he said. "I made lifelong friends, including one man named Roberts. We sent Christmas cards to each other every year until he passed away year before last. Another friend from Illinois came to Texas when he married. He came by to see me on that trip."

The Chickasaw Warrior Society is an organization that encourages community and personifies the Chickasaw Warrior spirit. Chickasaw veterans and active military share a common bond through their experiences. The Chickasaw Warrior Society aims to foster the relationships of our servicemen and woman. All Chickasaw warriors are encouraged to join so that we may honor your sacrifices.

Mr. Edwards always knew he wanted to work the earth just as generations of his family had done. He was taught the economics of agriculture early in life by his grandfather. Receiving his first heifer from him as a boy, he raised the cow and sold it to buy his first bicycle. Mr. Edwards continued to make his livelihood on the same fields and pastures as his father and grandfather.

Like many soldiers, he left a girlfriend at home during his military service. The two years away from her were difficult, he said. The couple married when he returned home, and raised three children. They've been together nearly 60 years.

Mr. Edwards attends the Chickasaw veterans' conferences. He is proud of his service and enjoys being around other Chickasaws who have served as well.

"The veterans' conference makes me proud to be Chickasaw," he said. "We (Chickasaws) did what we could for our country. We are American free. I would serve again if I had the opportunity."

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