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

Blade Bryan Allen Girdner of Tahlequah, Okla.; Ronald L. Smith II of Mounds, Okla.; and Dru Ella Welch Pratt of Claremore, Okla., were recognized by Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Secretary of Veterans Affairs S. Joe Crittenden for their service and sacrifice to their country.

Blade Bryan Allen Girdner joined the United States Army on Aug. 15, 2015. Sgt. Girdner completed basic training and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Miss. After completing training he was sent to Fort Campbell, Ky., where he was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment “War Rakkasans,” 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. In 2016, he deployed to Kosovo in support of Operation Joint Guardian and was then tasked with securing the Serbian border. Sgt. Girdner was honorably discharged on Dec. 8, 2022.

“I would like to thank my family, God, and Cherokee Nation for everything they have done for myself and my daughter while I was in the service. I could not have gotten this far without you guys and I appreciate everything. Thank you all,” Sgt. Girdner said.

  • Cherokee Nation honors three veterans in March 2023 1

    (L-R): Cherokee Nation Secretary of Veterans Affairs S. Joe Crittenden, District 1 Councilor Rex Jordan, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Blade Bryan Allen Girdner, District 2 Councilor Candessa Tehee and District 3 Councilor Wes Nofire.

  • Cherokee Nation honors three veterans in March 2023 2

    (L-R): Cherokee Nation Secretary of Veterans Affairs S. Joe Crittenden, District 14 Councilor Keith Austin, Dru Ella Welch Pratt, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and District 15 Councilor Danny Callison.

Ronald L. Smith II joined the U.S. Navy on Aug. 4, 1990. He completed Recruit Training Boot Camp in Orlando, Fla. where he started with the company C-175. During his time in C-180, he was injured and moved to C-190. Lt. Smith went to Annual Training School from Nov. 2, 1990, to Dec. 7, 1990. He then arrived at USS Forrestal C-59 in Mayport, Fla., where he left to go to the Gulf War in May of 1991 and returned on Dec. 25, 1991. Lt. Smith was involved in a vehicle accident and was given an honorable/medical discharge in August 1993. After his discharge, he taught kids in Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps, Sea Cadets and Civil Air Patrol until 2010.

Dru Ella Welch Pratt joined the U.S. Navy in June 1956. She was the first female to be trained in Chief Gamaly's communication class. Mrs. Pratt was originally chosen to attend the class by mistake due to her name being Dru. She graduated eighth in her class with a 3.0. After Mrs. Pratt graduated she was chosen to work at the U.S. Naval Communication Station Newport Naval Base in Newport, R.I., where she was recognized as the best in Communication Station. Mrs. Pratt was honorably discharged on May 3, 1957.

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, call 918-772-4166.