TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation honored three veterans with the Medal of Patriotism during the February meeting of the Council of the Cherokee Nation on Feb. 13.

Ralph Hanes of Shawnee, Okla.; Phillip Buford of Hulbert, Okla; and William Rabbit of Pryor, Okla., were recognized by Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and Secretary of Veterans Affairs S. Joe Crittenden for their service and sacrifice to their country.

Hanes joined the United States Army Reserves and completed basic training at Fort Knox in July 1971. After completing ROTC at Claremore Junior College, he accepted his Officer’s Commission in 1973 and was transferred to the 486th Civil Affairs Company.

Throughout Hanes’ career as a Civil Affairs Officer, he achieved the rank of Colonel and was assigned many prestigious roles, including the following: Civil Affairs Staff Officer of Joint Task Force at Camp Bulkeley in Guantanamo, Cuba; Commander of the Multinational Division in Tuzla, Bosnia; and the Army Representative for Oil and Energy to the U.S. State Department for The Future of Iraq Working Group. Hanes retired briefly in June 2003 before being recalled to service in 2005. He retired permanently in July 2006.

Over the course of his career, he was awarded the Legion of Merit, three Bronze Stars, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, three Iraqi Campaign Medals, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the Coast Guard Special Operations Medal and three Nation Defense Service Medals.

Buford joined the U.S. Marine Corps on May 6, 1969, and completed boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego before training as a radio operator at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. After completing training, he was deployed to Vietnam, where he was stationed at Landing Zone Baldy and was assigned to Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines.

Buford was later assigned to Gulf Company at Liberty Bridge, where he was injured and spent 45 days in a naval hospital. After being released to return to duty, he was reassigned to Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, and was the combat radio operator assigned to chart targets and call in air strikes for the Navy and Air Force aircrafts.

  • Veterans Feb 2023 1

    (L-R): Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Phillip Buford, Secretary of Veterans Affairs S. Joe Crittenden, District 1 Councilor Rex Jordan.

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    (L-R): Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Traci Rabbit, Karen Rabbit, District 15 Councilor Danny Callison, Cherokee Nation Treasurer Janees Taylor, Secretary of Veterans Affairs S. Joe Crittenden, Deputy Chief Bryan Warner.

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    (L-R): At-large Councilors Johnny Kidwell and Julia Coates, Secretary of Veterans Affairs S. Joe Crittenden, Catherine “Lori” Hastings, Ralph Hanes, Florence Hanes, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner.

Buford was honorably discharged on March 10, 1971. He was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with one Bronze Star, the Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device and the Rifle Sharpshooter Badge.

“If I was young and in the position to serve my country again, I would do it without hesitation,” Buford said.

Rabbit, a posthumous recipient of the Cherokee Nation Medal of Patriotism, turned down an art scholarship at the prestigious Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M., and voluntarily joined the U.S. Army in 1967. He completed two tours in Vietnam.

Rabbit’s family attended the Council meeting to accept the Medal of Patriotism.

Colonel B.F. Hood stated in military reports that Rabbit’s unrelenting loyalty, initiative and perseverance brought him wide acclaim and inspired others to strive for maximum achievement. He added that Rabbit selflessly worked long and arduous hours, and he contributed significantly to the success of the allied effort. He was a recipient of the National Defense Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with Device, the Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with 60 Device, and the Vietnam Service Medal.

Rabbit passed away in April 2012 due to his exposure to Agent Orange during his military service.

Each month, the Cherokee Nation recognizes 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, call 918-772-4166.