WASHINGTON, D.C. Chickasaw warriors laid a wreath at
the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery Nov. 10
to honor veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice defending
Four retired Chickasaw veterans represented their tribe at the
national shrine. They included Vietnam veteran and Hank Cease (USMC),
of Goose Creek, S.C.; 30-year veteran George Riddle (USA) of Yuma,
Ariz.; 21-year veteran Danny Landreth (USN), of Ardmore, Okla.;
and Lee Jennings (USAF), of Marlow, Okla., who served in World War
II and the Korean War.
"The experience was overwhelming," Mr. Landreth said, "especially
to be in the presence of the other great and honorable veterans.
To lay the wreath was probably the pinnacle of my military experience.
"You are given an opportunity to represent someone who gave
his life, someone who can't speak. We have to speak for them, otherwise
they will be forgotten."
Mr. Riddle also said the experience was "the best thing that
ever happened to me. It was such an honor and a privilege to represent
the group. It just left me speechless and brought tears to my eyes."
Mr. Riddle served two tours of duty fighting in Vietnam during
his lengthy military career.
The "group" referenced by Mr. Riddle are 19 retired military
veterans who are also citizens of the Chickasaw Nation. Each year,
the tribe sends warriors to tour the nation's capital.
Governor Bill Anoatubby, also a veteran, said the trip was an
expression of appreciation to Chickasaws who have served our country.
"Veterans Day helps us remember the debt of gratitude we owe
the special group of men and women who served in the armed forces,"
Gov. Anoatubby said. "While this time of year offers a unique opportunity
to honor their service, is important that we always remember the
sacrifice and dedication of those who gave of themselves to preserve
our freedoms and way of life."
This year, the three-day excursion took the warriors to monuments
honoring the nation's greatest leaders and sites commemorating wars
where Americans have fought with valor and dignity in the name of
"It is always an emotional thing to honor a soldier, particularly
an unknown soldier," Mr. Cease said.
This was the second wreath-laying of Mr. Cease's career. He
participated in a ceremony at the Punch Bowl in Hawaii. Formally
known as the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, it is located
in Honolulu and honors military personnel killed in action.
"I was still an active duty Marine when the Hawaii ceremony
was held," Mr. Cease said.
During his second Vietnam tour, he suffered serious wounds and
was returned to the U.S. for treatment.
"When I received the card telling me I was a Chickasaw warrior,
it was one of my proudest moments," he said.
Approximately two years ago, Gov. Anoatubby was determined to
provide the tribe's veterans with increased benefits and recognition.
The Chickasaw Warrior Society was launched and the tribe is currently
building a Chickasaw Warrior Society building on the campus of the
Chickasaw Nation Medical Center in Ada, Okla.
The site was selected to assist veterans from a centralized
location. Completion is scheduled for 2017. The staff will assist
veterans in accessing all resources available through the Chickasaw
Nation and other sources. The facility will also serve as a place
for members of the Chickasaw Warrior Society, other veterans and
those in active service to come together for fellowship and to build
At 89, Mr. Jennings stepped out of a wheelchair and walked to
lay the wreath. He used only a cane to assist him. After the wreath
was placed, he walked back with an active duty soldier flanking
him as he rejoined the group.
"It was great," Mr. Jennings said. "I was honored to be asked
to do it. God has blessed me and I am blessed to be Chickasaw."