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TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA The Cherokee Nation honored three veterans, including a World War II veteran, with the Cherokee Medal of Patriotism at its October Tribal Council meeting.
Lacy Backward, 90, of Salina; Jeffery Simpson, 70, of Stilwell; and Randy Thomas, 54, of Sallisaw, received a medal and plaque from Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden, acknowledging their service to the country.
Pfc. Backward was born March 11, 1923, to Sampson and Muggie Backward in Locust Grove. He was drafted in the U.S. Army in 1943, completed basic training at Camp Mackall, North Carolina, as a paratrooper and assigned to the 11th Airborne Division that saw action in World War II. After a year of training, the division was sent to New Guinea and then the Philippine Islands.
The division’s mission was to seize and secure within its zone all exits from the mountains and into Leyte Valley. Backward received an honorable discharge in 1946 with numerous honors, including the Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal and WWII Victory Medal. He returned to Oklahoma where he and his late wife, Luella, settled in Salina and raised two children.
Staff Sgt. Randy Thomas was born Jan. 20, 1959, to Harvey and Bettye Thomas, in Muskogee. Thomas enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1982 and completed basic training in San Diego. During his enlistment with the USMC Reserves, Thomas earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Northeastern State University. His service with the USMC Reserves ended in 1990. In 1998, Thomas enlisted in the US Air Force National Guard. He was trained as a ground radio repairman.
(l to r) Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Tribal Council Deputy Speaker Janelle Fullbright, veteran Randy Thomas, Randy’s mother Bettye Thomas, Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Randy’s stepson Airon Gallegos and Tribal Councilor David Thornton.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Thomas volunteered for service overseas. He served with the 379th Expeditionary Squadron in Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. Thomas acted as a security escort for foreign contractors and an electrical systems apprentice with the Civil Engineering Squadron’s electrical shop.
“I am real thankful to the Cherokee Nation,”
“The Nation has helped me through the years, and I am really humbled to be honored.”
Thomas received an honorable discharge in 2004 and received numerous honors for his service, including the Navy Meritorious Unit Citation ribbon, Cold War certificate, Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal and National Defense Service Medal. He now lives in Sallisaw with his wife, Brenda. The couple has raised two children.
Spc. E-5 Jeffery Simpson was born Feb. 5, 1943, to Alyene Hogner, in Tahlequah. He graduated from Stilwell High School in 1961 and received a degree in drafting from Oklahoma State Tech School in Okmulgee. Simpson enlisted in the US Army in 1965 and completed basic training at Fort Polk in Louisiana. He continued his topography training at Fort Belvoir in Virginia. Simpson served 24 months with the 3rd Armor Division in Germany and five months with the 502nd Administrative Company at Fort Hood, Texas. He received an honorable discharge in 1968.
After his service, Simpson worked for two years in Tulsa as a draftsman at North American Rockwell in the Apollo Space Program. He later worked for TD Williamson for 41 years in engineering and drafting and retired in 2005. Simpson and his wife, Joanna, raised two daughters. They now live in the Fairfield Community near Stilwell. Simpson serves as the chairman of the Fairfield Community Organization.
Each month Cherokee Nation recognizes Cherokee service men and women for their sacrifices and as a way to demonstrate the high regard in which all veterans are held by the tribe. Native Americans, including Cherokees, are thought to have more citizens serving per capita than any other ethnic group, according to the US Department of Defense.
posted October 28, 2013 10:20 am edt