The bridge over Hickory Creek on Highway 77 near Overbrook was named in honor of the late Marine Lance Cpl. Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby, who was killed in action on May 14, 2006, in Iraq. A large gathering of friends and family were on hand to witness the unveiling of two new signs on July 24. Pictured are Love County Commissioner Herschel “Bub” Peery, Rep. Tommy Hardin, Choctaw Chief Gregory E. Pyle, Hatak’s mother, Mary Yearby of Overbrook, his wife, Lindsey Yearby of Durant, his father, Justin Yearby of Overbrook, Laquita Ladner of Burneyville, and Sen. Frank Simpson. Standing in back are fellow Marines and friends of Hatak’s, Staff Sgt. Rodrigo Roman of Chicago, Ill., Cpl. Will Torres of Hemet, Calif., and Lance Cpl. John Amador of San Diego, Calif.
Bridge named in honor of fallen warrior
By LARISSA COPELAND Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
The bridge over Hickory Creek on Highway 77 near Overbrook, Okla., was renamed on Wednesday, July 24, in honor of the late Marine Lance Cpl. Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby, who was killed in action on May 14, 2006, in Iraq.
A reception to commemorate the newly named bridge was held at the Greenville Elementary School, the school Hatak attended as a child before going on to graduate from Marietta High School in 2003.
Senator Frank Simpson, Representative Tommy Hardin, and Choctaw Chief Gregory E. Pyle all addressed the large gathering of family and friends, speaking on Hatak’s accomplishments and service to the nation and expressing their appreciation to his family.
Chief Pyle spoke of the sacrifices of all who have served the country in the armed forces. “To all the veterans and their families, we appreciate so much all that you have done and all that you continue to do. To the Yearby family, this is especially true with Hatak having made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. I’m honored to be able to stand among you as we recognize him today.”
Justin and Mary Yearby spoke about their son and expressed their gratitude for all in attendance, including three of Hatak’s friends and fellow Marines that he served with overseas, all who flew in for the occasion. His family presented Pendleton blankets to the three men, Staff Sgt. Rodrigo Roman of Chicago, Ill., Cpl. Will Torres of Hemet, Calif., and Lance Cpl. John Amador of San Diego, Calif. His father said as he introduced them, “These men were his friends, they were with him [in Iraq] and were close to him. They are now a part of us.”
Love County also declared July 24 “Lance Corporal Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby Day.” The Choctaw Nation Color Guard also stood by at attention at the reception as the proclamation was read aloud by Love County Commissioner Herschel “Bub” Peery, which states:
Whereas, Lance Corporal Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby had a concept of nation and thereafter aspired and struggled for the nation’s freedom, and
Whereas, Lance Corporal Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby defined and contributed to a system of life of freedom and order for a nation, and
Whereas, Lance Corporal Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby contributed to the quality of life and destiny of a nation by his faithful and loyal devotion to duties and made the ultimate sacrifice in service.
Now therefore be it resolved by the Board of Commissioners of Love County, on behalf of all its citizens, as a show of deepest appreciation for everything Lance Corporal Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby did for Love County and the United States of America, does hereby declare July 24, 2013, “Lance Corporal Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby Day” throughout Love County.
After a presentation to the family of a replica of the new bridge sign, everyone moved out in a large vehicle convoy, led by the Patriot Guard Riders, to Hickory Creek to witness the unveiling of the two new signs at each end of the bridge along Highway 77.
“This is very special,” Justin said of the occasion. “It’s hard to express how thankful we are for all the support from the county, state and tribe for all that went into making this happen. It means a lot to our family.”
He went on to describe his son and the path that lead him to a life of service. “Everyone who knew him would say he was fun, he was a prankster, a jokester, always having a good time,” he said.
“But being in the service was something he always wanted to do,” he continued.
Hatak, whose heritage included Choctaw, Creek and Seminole, was a pow wow dancer all his life. “He grew up in the pow wow arena and grew up seeing and knowing the respect our culture gives to our warriors. He witnessed this his whole life. And that was solidified when his older sister joined the Marines.
“As his father, I had misgivings about him joining, of course. But he reminded me of something. He reminded me that I’ve always told him as he grew up that it takes a village, and no matter how big or small the gathering, wherever we are at any given time, that is our village. And he told me, ‘It’s my time to lead my own village,’ and I respected that. He had a warrior’s mentality.”
When asked what he thought Hatak would think about the event, his father smiled and replied with what he said was Hatak’s favorite word – “Sweeeet!”
Rep. Hardin sponsored the bill to name the bridge after Hatak after being contacted by Laquita Ladner of Burneyville, a former substitute teacher where Hatak attended school. Hardin began the process in the House, and Sen. Simpson ushered it through the State Senate.
Section 2 of Oklahoma House Bill 1759, approved by Governor Mary Fallin on May 14, 2013, reads: “The bridge over Hickory Creek on U.S. Highway 77 between Oswalt Road and Campbell Road in Love County shall be designated the ‘LCpl Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby USMC Memorial Bridge.’ Pursuant to the provisions of Title 69 of the Oklahoma Statutes, the Department of Transportation shall cause suitable permanent markers to be placed upon the bridge bearing that name.”