Virgil Lee Carter, 86, of Tahlequah; Michael Allen Smith Sr., 60, of Tahlequah; and Darryl England, 62, of Talihina, each received a medal and plaque from Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief Joe Crittenden, acknowledging their service to the country.
“I appreciate it very much being honored this way,” said Carter, a World War II Veteran. “We did what we could.”
Virgil Lee Carter was born Dec. 23, 1926, to Houston and Elizabeth Carter in Park Hill. In 1944, Carter was inducted into the U.S. Army, but since he was still in high school, he deferred until June 1945. He completed basic training at Fort Chaffee, Ark., with additional training at Camp Fanning in Texas. Carter and his company joined with the 49th Infantry Division in Italy during the end of World War II. The 49th Infantry Division spent a year in Italy gathering and destroying ammunition and weapons. In 1947, Carter received an honorable discharge and returned home. After completion of his service, he attended Northeastern State University and earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree. He then received his doctorate in education at the University of Arkansas. Carter now lives in Tahlequah. He has a son, six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Michael Allen Smith Sr. was born in 1952 to Allen and Colleen Smith in Flagstaff, Ariz. In 1972, Smith was drafted into the U.S. Army and completed basic training at Fort Ord in California. He was assigned to the 9th Infantry Division and served as a truck driver and light wheel vehicle mechanic. Smith served briefly overseas in Germany and received an honorable discharge in 1975. After being discharged, Smith reenlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves for six years. For his service, Smith received the Marksmanship Badge and 9th Infantry Badge of Service in addition to other medals. Smith is now retired and lives with his wife, Debra, near Tahlequah. The couple has four children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Darryl England was born in 1950 to Dan and Mary England in Claremore. In 1970, England enlisted in the U.S. Navy and completed training in Orlando and San Diego. During his service, England advanced rank quickly and served different positions on submarines. In 1978, he helped the U.S. Secret Service provide security for President Jimmy Carter during the 1978 National Democratic Convention.
“It was pretty interesting to tell high powered senators they needed the right credentials,” he said. “This is a tremendous honor to be recognized by the tribe.”
In 1979, England was honorably discharged after nine years of service. He received a National Service Medal, a Good Conduct Medal and various service pins. England is now retired and spends time with his two children and four grandchildren.
Each month the Cherokee Nation recognizes its 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 Cherokee Nation veteran, please call 918-453-5541 or 800-256-0671, ext. 5541.