The Cherokee Nation is flying seven Cherokee World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to tour the memorial sites at the nation's capital. "I have a friend or two that's made the trip, but I never thought I'd be able to," said 89-year-old Steve Downing Jr. of Locust Grove, pictured above. "I'm very grateful to the Cherokee Nation for this opportunity. It's something that just touches me in a way that is kind of hard for me to describe." Downing spent nearly three years in the Navy aboard the USS Santa Fe as a radar technician helping with supply runs, escorting damaged ships to shore and aiding in Pacific Island invasions. The Cherokee Warrior Flight, funded solely by the Cherokee Nation, will allow Downing so see war memorials in the capital for the first time.
"This is a way to tell our Cherokee veterans thank you and that we will never forget their service and sacrifices," said Cherokee Nation Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden, a Navy veteran who is traveling on the flight. "For most of these men who served in World War II, this will be a trip of a lifetime as they get to see the memorials and monuments honoring their role in defending our great country. They are truly the greatest generation, and we can't say thank you enough."
The Cherokee Warrior Flight is similar to the national Honor Flight organization's goal of helping all veterans, willing and able, to see the memorials dedicated to honor their service. With more than 4,000 military veterans who are Cherokee Nation citizens, the Cherokee Nation is hoping to replicate that experience for its people. Native Americans serve at a higher rate in the military than any other ethnic group. The seven World War II veterans participating on the Cherokee Warrior Flight are:
*Navy veteran Steve Downing Jr., 89, of Locust Grove
*Navy veteran Dewey Alberty, 88, of Tahlequah
*Navy veteran Charles Carey, 88, of Hulbert
*Army veteran Guy Wilson, 97, of Hulbert
*Army Air Corp veteran William Wood, 94, of Vinita
*Army veteran Eugene Fox, 91, of Bartlesville
*Navy veteran Joseph Leathers, 92, of Big Cabin
On Wednesday the group will visit the National World War II Memorial and take a tour of other monuments. On Thursday the veterans will tour the U.S. Capital and fly back to Tulsa that evening.
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