During the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council meeting for December, four Cherokee veterans were honored for their service and duties with the Cherokee Medal of Patriotism.
According to a Cherokee press release, Kenneth Cowart, 67, of Vian, Oklahoma; Ralph Walkingstick, 80, of Hulbert, Oklahoma; Isaac Holland, 53, of Chillicothe, Missouri; and R.B. “Brass” Breshears, 84, of Tahlequah, Oklahoma, received a medal and plaque from Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, acknowledging their service to the country.
“As a Cherokee citizen, it’s an honor the tribe thinks enough of me to award this medal for something that at that time, when we were coming back from Vietnam, the U.S. wanted nothing to do with,” Cowart said. “I feel honored and privileged the Cherokee Nation would do something like this for me”
Born July 23, 1946, in Blackgum, Oklahoma, to Kenneth Clyde and Lillian Coward, Spc. Cowart went on to graduate from Catoosa High School before being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1967. He completed his basic training in Fort Polk, Louisiana, and participated in basic field artillery training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The Cherokee citizen was then deployed to South Vietnam in 1968 with the 25th Infantry Division, 2nd Battalion, 77th Artillery for one year the press release states. Cowart returned from Vietnam, and was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, until his duty was over. He earned several commendations, including the Vietnam Service Medal and Vietnam Gallantry Cross. In 1981, Cowart went to work for the State of Oklahoma where he worked for 23 years. He retired in 1999 and now lives in Vian.
Petty Officer 2n Class Walkingstick served in the U.S. Navy for four years before retiring. Walkingstick was born on March 25, 1933, to Ben Walkingstick and Juanita Kirby, in the Baron community of Adair County. He graduated from Westville High School in 1952, and completed basic training at Camp Elliot Naval Training Center in San Diego and Combat Airman School at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington. Walkingstick was first assigned to search and rescue duty in Kodiak, Alabama, then received additional training in Norman, Oklahoma, and Memphis, Tennessee. The Cherokee citizen finished his military career with the Patrol Squadron NINE “Golden Eagles” doing reconnaissance missions in California, Alaska, Hawaii, and Japan during the Cold War. After retiring in 1956, he earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering with an emphasis in engineering, physics and mathematics from the University of Arkansas. For his service, Walkingstick was awarded the National Defense Medal, Combat Aircrew Wings, and Good Conduct Medal.
On April 23, 1960, in Coffeyville, Kansas, Maj. Holland was born into a long line of military veterans as his father and grandfather had served before him. Holland’s basic training began in 1979 at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. After completing basic training, he worked the flight lines as an aircraft fuel specialist in Spain, Delaware and Kansas. In 1986 Holland completed his Air Force obligation while reaching the rank of sergeant. Following his service in the Air Force, Holland enlisted in the U.S. Army where he was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia, for Infantry Officer’s Candidate School – he graduated as a second lieutenant. The Cherokee citizen served tours in South Korea, Spain and Hawaii and was the Garrison Company commander at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Holland also served as the senior finance officer for occupied forces and NATO forces in Haiti in 1995. Following a 22-year career, he was honorably discharged in 2001 from the U.S. Army. His awards and medals include the Joint Service Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Armed Forces Services Medal. The Major then graduated from the University of Kansas, and received his master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Colorado. Holland is currently the city administrator for Chillicothe, Missouri.
Capt. Breshears was born on December 11, 1929, in Muskogee and was raised on a dairy farm. In May of 1947 he graduated from Warner High School, and enlisted in the Marine Corp. the following year. Breshears graduated from boot camp in November 1947 in San Diego, California. Upon graduation he was sent to Guam as a member of the Special Forces. His unit, 1st Marine Division, 1st Engineer Battalion, Company A, rotated back to the U.S. in 1948. The following year he was sent to the front lines in South Korea. The Cherokee citizen married Mae Lea Smith in May of 1950. On his first tour in Washington, D.C., he participated in the inauguration of President Eisenhower, and on his second tour he was senior non-commissioned officer at President Kennedy’s funeral. He retired with the rank of captain in 1969. His awards include a Joint Service Commendation Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and Navy Presidential Unit Citation.