October 30, 2017
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation honored a World War II veteran and three Vietnam War veterans with the Medal of Patriotism at the Tribal Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 23.
Johnny Messimore, 67, of Claremore; Stephen Bright, 69, of Beggs; and George Pettit, 92, of Stilwell, were recognized by Cherokee Nation Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, acknowledging their service and sacrifice to their country. James Messimore, of Claremore, was honored posthumously by Deputy Chief Crittenden. James’ brother Johnny, son Shane and wife Kathy accepted the award in his honor.
Sgt. Johnny Messimore was born Dec. 27, 1948, and was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1969. He attended basic training and advanced infantry training at Fort Polk in Louisiana and later that year was deployed to Vietnam. For the first year of his deployment, he served on an armored personnel carrier and spent as many as 90 days in the field at a time. The carrier covered Chuchi, Cambodia and Tainan, all areas that were heavily saturated with Agent Orange. In June of 1970, his unit was the first to enter Cambodia, where he encountered the worst fighting of his military career. He was honorably discharged in February 1971. Messimore made his family’s home in Oklahoma, where he now serves as the chaplain for the VFW and the publicity chair and fundraising co-chair for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“I am almost more excited for my brother to receive this award than I am for myself,” said Messimore after his brothers’ family was presented with the Medal of Patriotism in his honor. “He was a good man, and I sure appreciate the tribe recognizing my family.”
Seaman Pettit was born May 30, 1925, and after hearing a radio ad announcing the beginning of World War II, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1943. After completing basic training in San Diego, Pettit boarded the USS Phelps, a Porter-class destroyer headed for Kwajalein. The USS Phelps played a major role in the assault on Saipan, Tinian and Guam, and even continued on to Eniwetok. The USS Phelps was attacked with two direct hits and 16 U.S. sailors were injured, but Pettit recalls seeing many more attacks from Japanese war planes during his time aboard the ship. He later went on to serve on the USS Doran and the USS War Hawk. Pettit was honorably discharged in January 1947 at age 23 and returned to life in Oklahoma.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Bright was born on Sept. 2, 1947, and enlisted in the Navy in 1968. Due to his college degree in commercial art from the Oklahoma State School of Technology, he was designated as an illustrator draftsman. Following his basic training in San Diego, Bright was stationed at a training facility where he worked in advertising. After a year at the facility, he was sent to an Admiral’s Flag Command aboard the USS Kearsarge, stationed in the Gulf of Tonkin. After working with Admiral Zumwalt’s staff on the USS Kearsarge, he was transferred to Fleet Airborne Training in Florida. While in Florida, Bright provided training materials for electronic schools. After being honorably discharged in August 1971, Bright made his home in Oklahoma, where he continued his career in advertising with the Tulsa World for 34 years.
James Messimore voluntarily enlisted in the Army in 1966 to serve as a combat engineer in the Vietnam War and received an honorable discharge in 1969. Messimore passed away in May 2010.
Each month the 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 U.S. Department of Defense. To nominate a veteran who is a Cherokee Nation citizen, please call 918-772-4166.