The Cherokee Nation presents the Cherokee Medal of Patriotism to veteran members who have served in the United States military.
The honor takes place during the Nation’s monthly council meetings with Principal Chief Bill John Baker along with Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden presenting the medals and plaques.
On November 13 two Marine Corps veterans and one U.S. Army veteran received the special honors: Frank David Whitlock Sr., Charles R. Linder, and Charles Rawls.
Sgt. Whitlock Sr., 42, of Tulsa was born in Claremore on February 2, 1972, to Sam and Helen Whitlock. He received his basic training in San Diego following enlistment in the Marine Corps on March 5, 1997. Whitlock Sr. was an anti-tank missileman, as a reservist, and later became a field radio operator. Active duty began for Whitlock Sr. in 2000 with the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 112 out of Ft. Worth, Texas. Following 13 years of service, he was discharged to attend college in 2003. Whitlock, however, returned to duty volunteering to serve in Iraq in 2005. While there the military vehicle he was in was hit by an explosive, for which he received the Purple Heart. Whitlock Sr. medically retired from the Marine Corps in June 2006.
“To have served my country means the world to me. If it was good enough for my grandfather, who survived Normandy, then it’s good enough for me,” Whitlock said. “And then to be recognized by my tribe, it’s an honor.”
Pfc. Linder, 58, of Fairfax, joined the Marine Corps in 1973 under the delayed entry program. Linder reported to boot camp in San Diego following his high school graduation from Fairfax High School in 1974. Upon completion of basic training Linder was assigned to the Headquarters Battery, 3rd 155MM Howitzer Battalion, 11th Marines and then Lima Battery, 2nd Battalion, 12th Marines, both out of Camp Pendleton, California. Linder served as the base commander’s driver under both groups. While serving he became a company champion boxer in the middleweight division and a battalion rifle champion. Linder was honorable discharged on July 15, 1977.
Staff Sgt. Rawls, 47, of Claremore was born July 26, 1967, to Oliver and Dorothy J. Rawls. Rawls received basic and combat engineer training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri following his 1984 enlistment. The Cherokee soldier was stationed in Germany for a short period following basic training, but returned to the U.S. to be stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. While in Kansas he attended the Sapper Leadership Course receiving the Sapper Tab in 1989. A Sapper is a combat engineer or other personnel who has supported the front-line infantry according to goarmy.com. Their duties typically include bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, demolitions, field defenses as well as building, road and airfield construction and repair.
Upon receiving his Sapper Tab, Rawls returned to Oklahoma where he served five years in the Army National Guard before returning to active duty. Rawls trained as a parachute rigger at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In 2002, he was deployed to Africa, the Caribbean, Central America, and a variety of U.S. training areas. His next homecoming was as a recruiter in the Tulsa area. Rawls then volunteered for deployment to Afghanistan as the battalion engineer and force protection specialist. On June 1, 2003 he was honorably discharged having received several honors and awards across a 28-year military career. Rawls now works with the BNSF Railway.
In October the Nation honored a World War II veteran posthumously, a Navy Vietnam vet and an Army veteran.
The late, Pvt. Ben Haner, of Clarmore, was born in Yonkers on Aug. 16, 1918, to Tom Haner and Virginia Williams. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in December 1942, during World War II. After training, his squad was assigned to guard the eastern coast of the United States and then France and Germany. In a battle for control of a bridge over Lake Ammersee in Germany, Haner was wounded three times in the right leg, which he lost to gangrene while waiting for evacuation. He was honorably discharged in 1946 following his recovery in a San Francisco hospital. The Cherokee soldier received a variety of honors including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Haner’s family accepted the award in his honor and stated they would be donating the medal to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian becoming the first of its kind in their collection.
“I’m very, very proud of my father and his service to this country,” said Bennie Haner, who accepted the award in her father’s place. “He was very proud of being Cherokee, and I think this is an outstanding honor.”
Staff Sgt. Ray Dean Grass, 68, of Locust Grove was born on May 4, 1946, to Thomas W. Grass and Ella Standingwater. Grass enlisted in the U.S. Navy on May 8, 1963 following attending Oaks Mission School. After basic training, Grass found himself doing supply runs aboard the USS Castor and refueling ships aboad the USS Guadelupe during the Vietnam War. Earning a variety of honors that included the Vietnam Service Medal and National Defense Medal. In 1967 he was honorably discharged as petty officer second class. Six months after his discharge Grass enlisted in the U.S. Air Force where he was trained as an aircraft maintenance specialist, and was assigned to Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. He was eventually transferred to Guam and assigned to a C-97 aircraft. Grass was honorably discharged for the second time from the U.S. Military on January 9, 1970.
Spc. Robert W. Johnson, 53 of Wagoner was born Nov. 8, 1960, in Riverside, California. Johnson enlisted on June 28, 1978 and completed his U.S. Army training at Ft. Gordon, Georgia as a communications specialist. While in Georgia he earned the title of rifle sharpshooter. Johnson completed his service in Ft. Carson, Colorado, where he adapted his training for snow and trained in nuclear, biological and chemical warfare tactics. On April 20, 1984 he was honorably discharged.
To nominate a veteran who is a Cherokee Nation citizen, call (918) 453-5541 or (800) 256-0671, ext. 5541.