From the left, World War II veteran and 2014 Cherokee Warrior Flight participant Joseph Leathers visits with Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker and World War II veteran and 2017 Cherokee Warrior Flight participant Jack Shamblin of Roland at the tribe’s 2017 Memorial Day ceremony.
For World War II veteran Jack Shamblin of Roland being on this year’s Cherokee Warrior Flight is more than a trip. It’s another chance to visit the grave of his grandson, Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, who was killed by ISIS and laid to rest at Arlington Cemetery in 2015.
He is among eight Cherokee veterans who will leave for the nation’s capital to visit several war memorials and tour the Capitol building as part of the Cherokee Nation’s fourth annual Cherokee Warrior Flight.
At 5 p.m. Sunday, at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, a special dinner in the Sky Room will honor the veterans. The three World War II veterans, three Korean War veterans and two Vietnam veterans will be presented with vests and hats with Cherokee Warrior Flight patches from Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden to thank them for their service.
“It’s quite an honor to be recognized by the Cherokee Nation, and I look forward to sharing this trip with Joshua’s brother, Zack,” said Shamblin, 90. “I love this country, and I am thankful to the Cherokee Nation for everything they have done for my family and for so many other veterans.”
The Cherokee Warrior Flight departs from Tulsa International Airport for Washington, D.C., at 6:30 a.m. on Monday.
From Sept. 25-27, the veterans will tour Arlington National Cemetery, the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Wall and the U.S. Capitol before arriving back in Tulsa at 10:15 p.m. Wednesday.
“This trip is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a lot of our veterans, and one of the most important ways we can show our gratitude for their service,” said Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, a U.S. Navy veteran. “This year’s veterans represent a variety of service over many decades and many stories, and I feel honored to share this experience with each of them.”
World War II veteran, Wayne Kellehan, 92, of Claremore, says he is looking forward to sharing everything about the trip with his daughter, Carolyn, who is going as his chaperone.
“I was so surprised to be invited on the Cherokee Warrior Flight,” said Kellehan, who was a corporal in the U.S. Army. “It sure means a lot to me to go, and I am excited to see all that there is to see.”
Also on the flight are two Vietnam veteran brothers, who planned to attend with their third brother, but he recently died.
The Cherokee Warrior Flight’s mission is similar to the national Honor Flight organization’s goal of helping all veterans, willing and able, to see the memorials that were erected in their honor. With more than 4,000 military veterans who are Cherokee Nation citizens, the Cherokee Nation is replicating that experience for its people. Per capita, Native Americans serve at a higher rate in the military than any other ethnic group.
The veterans participating on the 2017 Cherokee Warrior Flight include the following:
World War II
Jack Shamblin, 90, Army Air Force, of Roland
Wayne Kellehan, 92, Army, of Claremore
Johnnie Crittenden, 92, Army, of Burbank, California
John Swimmer, 84, Army, of Vian
Granvill “Buck” Murray, 84, Army, of Claremore
Jim Quetone, 86, Army, of Tahlequah
Ray Grass, 70, Navy, Air Force, of Locust Grove
Russell Grass, 73, Navy, of Walnut Creek, California
Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director
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