The Cherokee Nation honored area veterans with the Cherokee Medal of Patriotism at its October Tribal Council meeting.
Raymond Yahola Jr., 64, of Vian; Leon Hammer, 75, of Kansas City, Kan.; and the late Jimmie Hammer, of Westville, each received a medal and plaque from Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief Joe Crittenden Oct. 15, acknowledging their service to the country.
Yahola was born Dec. 8, 1947, to Raymond Sr. and Eldee Yahola, in Tahlequah. In 1968, Yahola was drafted by the U.S. Army and completed basic training at Fort Lewis, Wash. During the Vietnam War, Yahola was assigned to a ground force infantry, 1st Battalion 22nd Infantry A Company. Yahola was also a squad leader in the 2nd platoon A Company and served in the central highlands of Vietnam and Cambodia.
“This country means a lot more to me being a Cherokee and a Native American because I felt this country was more mine than others,” Yahola said. “To be honored by the Cherokee Nation is one of the high points of my life.”
After two years of service, Yahola was honorably discharged. He received many prestigious awards, including the Silver Star for Gallantry in Action and National Defense Service Medal. Yahola and his wife, Carol, have three children and four grandchildren. Yahola taught and coached at Sequoyah High School and Vian High School for 29 years.
Leon Hammer was born April 24, 1937, to Nellie Hammer, near Westville and raised by his grandparents after his mother’s death. In 1955, Hammer enlisted in the U.S. Navy and completed basic training in San Diego. Hammer was later stationed aboard the USS Los Angeles and served tours of duty in the Korean waters, Formosa Straits, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Okinawa, Philippines, Australia and Vietnam. When discharged in 1959, Hammer’s rank was Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class. Hammer’s awards include the Good Conduct Medal and five service ribbons. After his service, Hammer settled in Kansas City, Kan., with his late wife, Norma J. Griffin. The couple has three children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Hammer worked concrete construction for 49 years and retired in 2009.
The late Jimmie Hammer was born May 23, 1918, to Eli and Nannie Sam Hammer, in Westville. He is the uncle of Leon Hammer. In 1942, Jimmie Hammer enlisted in the U.S. Army and completed basic training at Fort Polk, La. After completion of basic training, Hammer served in the 250th Field Artillery Battalion from Dec. 1943 until Oct. 1945. Hammer served in numerous campaigns, including Normandy and Central Europe. Hammer earned many awards, including the WWII Victory Medal and WWII Honorable Service Lapel. Hammer and his late wife, Mae, have 11 children and more than 100 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Each month the Cherokee Nation recognizes Cherokee service men and women for their sacrifices and as a way to demonstrate the high regard in which all veterans are held by the tribe. Native Americans, including Cherokees, are thought to have more citizens serving per capita than any other ethnic group, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. To nominate a veteran who is a Cherokee Nation citizen, call 918-453-5541 or 800-256-0671, ext. 5541.