Press Release

Release Date: November 16, 2022
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Chickasaw Nation warriors laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery during a recent trip to Washington, D.C., in honor of Veterans Day. 

The veterans, all from the Korean and Vietnam era, were part of 11 Chickasaw veterans who attended a five-day trip to Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Chickasaw Nation. Each year, the tribe sends its warriors here to enjoy the sights, take part in Veterans Day memorial ceremonies and allow them an opportunity to meet other Chickasaws who served. The 2022 warriors served America in the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force. 

Four Chickasaw Vietnam veterans presented a Chickasaw Elder Veterans wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Thursday, Nov. 10. They included Cedar Hill, Texas, resident Ronald D. Harris, a Navy veteran; Zephyrhills, Florida, resident Dusty L. Rider, an Air Force veteran; Plano, Texas, resident Stephen S. Paul, a Marine Corps veteran; and Gardnerville, Nevada, resident Ronald E. Garside, an Army veteran.

“It was a great honor and privilege to be able to participate in the wreath laying ceremony,” Harris said.

Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby said the trip is an expression of appreciation to Chickasaws who have served our country.

“Chickasaws have bravely served in every major war and conflict since World War I, and our honored Chickasaw veterans continue to carry on the Chickasaw warrior tradition,” Governor Anoatubby said. “Veteran’s Day provides a special opportunity for us to remember, honor and thank all the brave men and women who served, or is now serving, in the armed forces. It is important for us to remember their sacrifice and dedication which preserves our freedom and way of life.”   

This year’s trip took the warriors to monuments and memorials in the nation’s capital, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. 

Chickasaw veteran and Ardmore, Oklahoma, resident, Harrell Dene “H.D.” Gardner, was filled with gratitude and emotions when he visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Gardner located the name of his friend and comrade on the memorial wall. Gardner served in the U.S. Air Force and Army. 

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the massive granite wall lists more than 58,000 names of servicemen and servicewomen who lost their lives during the Vietnam conflict.

The veterans’ trip provided these Chickasaw veterans the opportunity to visit museums, monuments and memorials. 

In addition to the Vietnam Memorial, the veterans also visited the World War II Memorial, National Archives, National Museum of the American Indian and other locations.

The Chickasaw veterans also attended the dedication of the National Native American Veterans Memorial, Friday, Nov. 11. The dedication ceremony took place on the National Mall next to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. According to the Smithsonian, the memorial is the first national landmark in Washington, D.C., to focus on the contributions of First Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians who have served in the military. The memorial was designed by Harvey Pratt, a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. Pratt is a retired forensic artist and a Vietnam veteran. 

“We would like to say thank you to all Native American, Alaskan Natives and Native Hawaiian veterans for being in attendance today,” Chickasaw astronaut and veteran John Herrington said during the event. “As a fellow veteran, I know I speak on behalf of us all when I say we're proud to be with you today, to recognize together that this memorial stands as a powerful reminder of the service and sacrifices of those remembered.”

Herrington became the first enrolled member of a First American tribe to fly to space. During his 13-day journey in space, Herrington carried the Chickasaw Nation flag that was presented to him by Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby before his first flight.

"Today, we mark a major milestone for our country, the Smithsonian and Native people, as we dedicate the National Native American Veterans Memorial,” said Cynthia Chavez Lamar (San Felipe Pueblo, Hopi, Tewa and Navajo), the director of the National Museum of the American Indian. “The museum is proud to be the home of the memorial and will carry out our responsibility to forever welcome and honor veterans and educate people about the extraordinary military service of Native veterans and active-duty service members."

"Today, I’m so honored and proud to be a part of this ceremony," said Chickasaw Nation Lt. Governor Emeritus Jefferson Keel. “I want to thank each one of you veterans from the bottom of my heart.”

Keel served as co-chairman of the advisory committee to the National Native American Veterans Memorial and he helped to secure funding for the memorial. He is also a member of the Chickasaw Warrior Society and has been inducted into the Military Museum Hall of Honor in Ardmore, Oklahoma, for his exemplary military and civilian achievements.

The Chickasaw Nation provides veterans with increased benefits and services, including the Chickasaw Warrior Society. The warrior society was formed by Governor Anoatubby in 2015 as an organization to encourage community, establish and support camaraderie, and personify the Chickasaw warrior spirit. 

The Chickasaw Nation Veterans Lodge, located on the Ada South Campus near the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center in Ada, Oklahoma, was also designed to assist veterans in a centralized location. It serves by helping them conveniently access all resources available through the Chickasaw Nation and other sources. It also functions as a place for members of the Chickasaw Warrior Society, other veterans and those in active service to come together for fellowship and build relationships.

In honor of all Chickasaw veterans, the Chickasaw Nation also created the Chickasaw Veterans Wall. The virtual veterans wall was created to publicly pay tribute to all Chickasaws who have served in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.

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