Cherokee Nation honors family of veterans

Tahlequah, Oklahoma (ICC/CN) September 2010

 The Cherokee Nation honored four
local Cherokee veterans at a recent
council meeting held in Tahlequah.
Pictured from left to right are
William Reedy, Robert Reedy, John
Crittenden and Jean Mathis.
The Cherokee Nation recently honored four veterans at its August monthly tribal council meeting in Tahlequah. The four are all part of a close-knit eastern Oklahoma Cherokee family and represent multiple branches of the military.

William Reedy was born in 1936. He was raised in Proctor, Okla., and graduated from Tahlequah Senior High School in 1953. After high school, William attended Northeastern State University in Tahlequah for one year before enlisting into the U.S. Army in January of 1955.

Upon completion of his basic training, William was assigned to the U.S. Army Signal Corps in Fort Huachuca, Ariz. In December of 1957, after two years of service he received an honorable discharge and began a career with the Santa Ana Fire Department in southern California, ultimately becoming the department’s fire chief.

In 1987 William retired from the fire department, moving back to Oklahoma in 2005. He and his wife, Maureen, live near Lake Tenkiller and enjoy fishing, traveling and spending time with family. Speaking of his life in the military, William says he learned a lot and that it was a great experience.

“You really had to grow up fast,” said William. “Being in the military was good and it taught me responsibility.”

William’s younger brother, Robert Reedy, was born in 1938 in Proctor. In the fall of 1955 he enlisted in the Merchant Marines in Wilmington, Calif. He immediately began to travel, shipping lumber and transporting steel cargo from the East Coast to the West Coast while serving aboard ship.

While in the military, Robert realized the importance of education and decided to finish high school begin attending class at Cerritos Junior College in Norwalk, Calif. Later, he moved to Bakersfield, Calif., where he raised two daughters and began working in the oil business until retirement.

Robert and his wife Linda, a former lieutenant in the Navy Nurse Corps, now reside in Park Hill, Okla. Their grandson, Seth Thompson will soon be following in their footsteps when he deploys to Afghanistan in September with the U.S. Marine Corps.

Robert’s and William’s cousin, Jean Mathis, was born in Tahlequah, but like his cousins, grew up in Proctor. Following graduation from Westville High School, Jean enlisted in the U.S. Air Force to pursue a career and take advantage of the educational opportunities that were provided through the military.

From 1958 to 1968, Jean served in Germany, the Philippines and Thailand as an Explosive Ordinance Disposal, Master Technician. Throughout his military career he received several awards and medals, including the Vietnam Campaign Medal.

Jean attended Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, earning a master’s degree in 1972. He embarked on a career with the Department of Veterans Affairs in Muskogee, helping veterans throughout the state become home owners until his retirement in 2000.

The final veteran honored was John Crittenden, who is an uncle to Jean Mathis and the Reedy brothers. He was born in 1918 and grew up in rural Cherokee County, one of a family of ten children. While John was completing the 8th grade, his father passed away. Needing to support his family, he quit school and began selling tomatoes and cutting and hauling sugar cane.

At 23, John was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., for basic training. After basic training, John was assigned in Arkansas a guard at a gun powder plant, later ending up in New York as part of the 43rd Army Engineer Company C, which provided construction service for the military.

For the next three and a half years, John traveled through the northern parts of Australia and the South Pacific area, building runways for military aircraft. John returned to the U.S., eventually ending up back in Oklahoma where he guarded the German prisoner-of-war camp in Tonkawa.

When his service was completed, John returned to Tahlequah and began working as a carpenter. He married Edna Whitmire and they started a family in Blackwell, Okla. They remained happily married for 60 years until her death in 2007.  John continues to reside in Blackwell, where he is an active volunteer for veteran’s issues. He enjoys spending time with his two daughters and often speaks of how proud he is of his Cherokee heritage.