Choctaws have proud history of service
From the desk of Assistant Chief Gary Batton
We are truly blessed to be able to celebrate our veterans. As I looked out over the audience during our Veterans Day ceremony at Tvshka Homma, I saw men and women of all ages who have fought for our freedom. There were close to 900 Choctaw veterans attending the event with members representing every branch of service. It’s always a stirring moment for me when I see the veterans proudly stand to the music of their respective anthem.
The Choctaw Nation has a glorious military past. On Nov. 9, I had the privilege to watch as Tony Burris was inducted posthumously into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame. Army SFC Burris is the only Choctaw to be awarded the Medal of Honor. He gave the ultimate sacrifice in 1951 on Heartbreak Ridge in Korea. Records say Burris’ company encountered intense fire, but Burris charged ahead throwing hand grenades and ultimately killing 17 of the enemy before he was mortally wounded.
Another historic event took place on Nov. 20 in Washington, D.C. – the long-awaited presentation of Congressional Gold Medals to World War I and II Code Talkers of the Choctaw Nation and 32 other tribal nations. Choctaw men were the first to speak in their language as a code and the group led the way for others to repeat the strategy in World War II.
As we honor our veterans, it is clear that they are the reason why we are able to hold our celebrations. We have freedom to worship. We have the freedom to gather with our families on holidays. And, we have the freedom to help others.
Choctaw Nation’s services are available year-round but as we near the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, we remember that it is a season of giving and there are many who need our help. Outreach staff holds drives every fall and gathers shoes and coats to give to kids throughout the Nation. Food vouchers have been provided to 3,200 families to use for holiday meal items and a special Santa gift program is ensuring over 2,000 children have presents this year. Choctaw Nation employees work tirelessly.
The generosity of people warms my heart as I see the staff hold toy drives on Tuesdays and the way everyone hurries to put their names on Angel gift lists for Choctaw youth and senior citizens who often have no one else to buy them anything.
As I walked through the store shopping for my “Elder Angel,” I wondered if he was a veteran. The list was so simple, and humbling. Yakoke, veterans, for your defense of our freedoms. YOU have given us so much.