As Cherokee people, we have always respected our warriors – people willing to fight for us, for our values and for our way of life. Under my administration, I assure you we will continue to hold the brave men and women who serve our country in the highest regard.
Cherokees who put their lives in jeopardy to defend our country recently got the chance to visit the war memorials built in their honor in Washington, D.C. The sixth annual Cherokee Nation Warrior Flight, led by Secretary of Veteran Affairs S. Joe Crittenden, was a way to say thank you to 10 Cherokee veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars. Although we are now decades removed from their service days, their sacrifices are something we will continue to recognize.
For these warriors, ages 65 to 87, a VIP tour of Washington, D.C. was the trip of a lifetime. Among other sites, they toured our nation’s capital city, Arlington Cemetery, the White House and the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian.
It is significant for these warriors to be acknowledged with the praise and thanks that they richly deserve, and at the same time it is very meaningful for us, as Cherokees, to see our veterans receive the honor they are due. We will continue to grow our Warrior Flight with every excursion.
Thousands of Cherokee men and women have committed a part of their lives to military service, helping to protect the freedoms we enjoy. But with that service come physical and psychological dangers, the effects of which can last long after a service career ends. We acknowledge this and want to help these veterans access all the resources they need to live long and healthy lives.
Because it is important to me to keep building on this foundation of support for our Cherokee veterans, I asked the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council to approve the creation of a cabinet-level Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs acts on behalf of Cherokee veterans, maintains the Cherokee Nation Veterans Center and Cherokee Warrior Memorial, and oversees new and existing tribal partnerships with VA hospitals and the Eastern Oklahoma Food Bank. The position will become an important liaison to the state veterans’ center that is relocating soon to Sequoyah County.
Former Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden is the right person to fill this new role. He understands the needs of those who served, and I know he will fight tirelessly to ensure those needs are met. As a U.S. Navy veteran, he has proven his commitment to serve his country and the Cherokee people. He is already off to a great start by leading our 2019 Warrior Flight.
Under Secretary Crittenden’s experienced guidance, the Cherokee Nation’s long-standing tradition of honoring and supporting our warriors will continue to grow.
Chuck Hoskin Jr. is the Principle Chief of the Cherokee Nation.