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Cherokee Nation Honors Vietnam War Veterans

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The Cherokee Nation has a long history of warriors serving in the military and at February’s Tribal Council meeting the nation honored two Vietnam War veterans.

John W. Stevenson was born on Jan. 28, 1945, to Louise and J.W. Stevenson in Southwest City, Mo. Stevenson joined the Navy on April 5, 1966, and went to basic training in San Diego. He was assigned to the U.S.S. Jason (AR 8), a repair ship based out of San Diego, as an interior communications technician.

“When I first got onto the ship, I went out in a little boat, and you looked up about 60 or 70 feet. The side of the ship was that tall,” said Stevenson. “It was quite a shock to know that something like that could still float without sinking.”

While Stevenson was away at sea, the U.S.S. Jason docked at foreign and domestic locations all over the Pacific including the Philippines, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Hawaii, Guam and Seattle.

Stevenson was discharged on April 1, 1970. He then returned to work at Western Electric, retiring after giving the company nearly 31 years of service. Stevenson now lives in Jay, Okla., with his wife of 45 years, Becky. The couple has three children.

Chapman Phillips was born in Tulsa, Okla., to Bill and Betty Phillips. He graduated from Will Rogers High School in 1968 and joined the Marine Corps in 1969. After completing his training, Phillips was sent to fight in Vietnam.

Phillips served in Vietnam as a rifleman, and his company was assigned as a Civilian Unification and Pacification Program unit.

“It’s getting close to the native people and getting to know them and operating with them and teaching them how to take care of their own country,” said Phillips, reflecting on his CUPP duty.

CUPP units suffered high casualties. Phillips was wounded in combat on two separate occasions. His second battlefield injury was inflicted four days before he was to return to the United States. He was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with a Combat “V.”

Phillips returned to Tulsa after being discharged. He worked for the Tulsa Fire Department for 17 years, retiring in 1999. Phillips has worked in the Adrian Farm Supply welding shop for the last ten years. He has been married to his wife, Jennifer, for 38 years and they reside in Tahlequah. The couple has three daughters and six grandsons.

Stevenson and Phillips were presented a plaque and the Cherokee Warrior Medal by Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith.