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Cherokee Nation honors family of veterans

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TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation honored a special family of three veterans during the February monthly tribal council meeting held in Tahlequah.

“The Cherokee Nation is proud to honor our Cherokee veterans,” said Principal Chief Chad Smith. “We appreciate their service to the tribe and the United States.”

Jack Wayne Clay enlisted in the Army Air Force at age 17 and took his basic training in Texas. After training, he was sent to Japan and became one of 75 enlisted men in a Korean War unit called Bout One. The unit was assigned to the Korean Air Force to teach the Koreans how to fly and service F51 fighter planes. His unit received the Korean President Unit Citation for this specific role. He was promoted to permanent rank of Sergeant in 1950. Jack spent 20 months and 22 days overseas and served a total of four years in the Air Force. He currently resides in West Siloam Springs, Ark.

“Being a part of the military gave me a chance to see the world and learn about different cultures,” Jack Wayne said.

Jimmie Eugene Clay, Jack’s brother, entered the Air Force when he was 17 years old. He served three years and nine months in locations that included Texas, Korea, Japan and California. After the military, he attended college to earn a degree in engineering. He is retired after a 35-year career with Hughes Aircraft and resides in Pleasanton, Calif.

Jack’s son, Jimmie Wayne Clay, joined the U.S. Marine Corps at 18 and went straight to boot camp in San Diego, Calif. Shortly after that he was stationed at New River Air Station, N.C., and remained there until his

service was over.

After serving in the Marines from 1975 to 1983, Jimmie went into the inactive reserve, becoming a member of the Arkansas National Guard in 1993. He was called to active duty in August of 2005 and sent to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, serving there through January of 2007. During that service he was gravely injured by a roadside bomb, resulting in a permanent 100 percent disability. Jimmie Wayne Clay has a combined total of 23 years of military service. He was honorably discharged in 2007 and currently lives in Tontitown, Ark.

“I feel that joining the military gives you a jump on life,” Jimmie Wayne said. “You learn discipline, how to trust others and you develop a sense of pride early on in life. In learning that, it makes me very proud to be a Cherokee citizen in the military.”

If you know a veteran that you would like to see honored by the Cherokee Nation, call (918) 453-5541 or (800) 256-0671, ext. 5541, to nominate them. To be eligible for recognition the veteran must be a Cherokee Nation citizen.