Kristin Gentry, a registered artist and tribal member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, is a regular blogger for WellboundStorytellers.com. Gentry's artwork is on display in Oklahoma State University's Native American Studies area, and at the University of New Mexico Cancer, Research, and Treatment Center to enhance the healing process for patients undergoing chemo, radiation and other forms of medicinal cancer treatment. She wrote the following column for Wellbound Storytellers in honor of Veteran's Day.
I haven’t ever personally served in the military, but my elders, brothers and nephews have and are serving. When one person serves our country, I believe the whole family serves. During long and short deployments the rest of the family helps to take on roles to support spouses and children who are missing their husband or daddy.
As a child, I didn’t fully understand why I couldn’t see my brothers every day—until I was older and understood what they were doing by being in the military. We are so proud of their service, and we know that it is very important for the future of our family and our country that they serve.
When I began learning about my family history, my mother told me stories about her childhood “Down Home.” That place is in the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. The town of Clayton, specifically. This is where our remaining allotment of land is located. She told me one story about her Grandma and Grandpa Carterby.
Grandma and Grandpa Carterby lived in the camp-home that my mom would spend time at with her Aunt Boo-boo while her mother was at work in Divide. She said they would all go to the Sunday School Conventions and memorize and recite her memory verses against the other children who came to town.
She remembers one of the times she won when competing. She wore her brand new dress that day, and after she won Grandpa Carterby gave her locket on a necklace strand. She said she loved spending time there because Grandma Carterby was always cooking food like sweet potatoes or “banaha” on the wood burning stove.
WWI Choctaw Code Talkers
Ben Carterby, my mother’s grandfather, was born on December 11, 1891. Toward the end of World War I, a group of Choctaw soldiers brought the United States Army the use of their traditional language as a way to win several strategic battles in the Meusse Argonne Campaign against Germany. Our native language was unknown to the German military and allowed the United States Army to secretly deploy plans without being exposed through Germanic spies. These soldiers, including Ben Carterby, became known as the Choctaw Code Talkers of World War I.
My oldest brother, 2nd Lt. Robert “Bob” Hoover, served in the Army National Guard until 1990 when he passed away. Even to this day when I think of him, I picture him in his military uniform.
I have rare memories of him as I was only five years old when he passed. He would come home to visit wearing his uniform, and take me for little rides down the road on his motorcycle. We both graduated from the same university decades apart. Bob was laid to rest in our Benjamin Family cemetery in the Choctaw Nation.
My second oldest brother, retired Sgt. Timothy Hoover, served in the United States Air Force before and during my earlier childhood. I grew up not seeing him very often as he was either stationed out of state or deployed for Desert Storm. After he retired we were able to spend plenty of time together, and I grew up with his children. His eldest son, SSgt. Morgan Hoover serves currently in the United States Marines. Morgan and his wife are stationed away from our family. He and I are almost the same age, and I am so proud of all he has accomplished in his military career.
My other nephew that is currently serving in the United State Air Force has a special relationship with me. He and his siblings were raised with me off and on growing up and we now consider each other brother and sister. I asked him for a few sentences about his service as he’s deployed overseas. He and his wife have two daughters, a 5 year and 8 month old; they are staying at their Air Force base during his deployment. Deployments are very hard on the family, but maybe even more so on their children during the holidays. Their family celebrated all of their fall and winter holidays early this year before his deployment to get in as many family memories for the kids as they could.
The sacrifices we make today seem less compared to the sacrifices of our predecessors. We can communicate with our family now much quicker than then. We have more entertainment, more comforts of home, and more the comforts of family now than any deployed military member in our past and every day we make improvements for ourselves and those that follow.
Merely the fact that I am able to provide these words to you is a testament to the extent we are able to be comforted by our family and loved ones. I am proud to uphold the honor, bearing and discipline of my forebears, and am filled with pride every time I pass a veteran, for my sacrifice is great, and theirs was just as great, but made more difficult on them for the extent of isolation felt by all that served then.
I am proud of my brothers and sisters in arms, for we are the few of a nation that have made the sacrifice to stand before the public to defend and serve. The Airmen’s Creed burns passionately in my heart for "I am a warrior, I will uphold my Honor and I will stand for my fellow Brothers and Sisters in Arms.” —MICHAEL R. DIEHL, SSgt, USAF
Many of our Native American families have very, very long lines of not just serving our US Military, but serving as warriors for our tribal nations pre-colonization. I’m very thankful for all our Tvshka [warriors] and wish as many safe returns as possible for all our soldiers. Yakoke, Thank-you.