Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden and Cherokee Nation Immersion Charter School students handed out hundreds of homemade Valentine cards to veterans at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center Friday to thank them for their service to the country.
Each year the tribe runs a Valentine’s for Veterans program. This year churches, schools and CNB and Cherokee Nation employees made 5,000 Valentine cards. They were also delivered to W.W. Hastings Hospital, Fayetteville VA Medical Center and veterans in nursing homes or hospitals in Vinita, Talihina, Tulsa and Claremore.
“This program is an effort to not only brighten up a day for these deserving veterans, but to thank them for their service to this country,” said Cherokee Nation Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden, a U.S. Navy Vietnam Veteran. “One thing we have in common, no matter what branch it was, it took all of us. We want veterans to know that we appreciate and honor their service, and this is a way that we show them.”
U.S. Army Cpl. Billy J. McMurry, 85, of Cameron, Oklahoma, served with the medical corps at a prisoners of war camp during the Korean War.
McMurry said he always gets Christmas and birthday cards but not many Valentine’s Day cards, which made him smile when students walked in with a few.
“I think it’s a real honor,” McMurry said. “There are still a lot of good people in this world. There’s a lot of good old boys still around, and the best thing we can receive is recognition for what we’ve done.”
Valentine’s Day cards were made by dozens of groups from across northeast Oklahoma, including Will Rogers Junior High School in Claremore, Classical Conversations homeschooling group from Coweta, Cherokee Promise Scholars at Northeastern State University and Cherokee Nation Businesses employees in Catoosa.
Braden Petree, a sixth-grader from Briggs Public School in Cherokee County, recently glued pieces of construction paper together with members of the school’s Service Club. Petree said he liked making cards because his uncle is an Air Force veteran.
“I think my uncle would feel grateful that I’m doing this for people like him, veterans who were brave in their service,” the 12-year-old said. “I think these cards will make the veterans happy, especially the ones in hospitals. It lifts my spirit when I imagine the smiles on their faces when they see their cards.”
Cherokee Nation’s Valentines for Veterans program started in 2008 by the late Rogan Noble, a Marine Corps veteran and advocate for the tribe’s veterans’ affairs. The program is part of the National Salute to Veteran Patients.
Courtesy Cherokee Nation
Cherokee Immersion Charter School kindergarten student Dayci Starr delivers a handmade Valentine’s Day card to U.S. Army veteran Cpl. Billy J. McMurry at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Muskogee.