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

Aron Michael Dunlap of Tahlequah, Ronall Lewis Rhoads of Stilwell and Roberta Christine Sweet of Muskogee were recognized by Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and Secretary of Veterans Affairs S. Joe Crittenden, acknowledging their service and sacrifices to their country. 

Dunlap joined the U.S. Army in September 2005 and served as an 88M Motor Transport Operator while stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas. He deployed and was stationed in Baghdad, where he served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom from February 2007 through May 2008. He was honorably discharged from the Army in 2009 and then served with the National Guard from March 2009 through March 2011. 

Dunlap was ultimately awarded the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star AR, the Overseas Service Ribbon and the Army Service Ribbon. 

(L-R): Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, Secretary of Veterans Affairs S. Joe Crittenden, Aron Michael Dunlap, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., District 1 Councilor Rex Jordan, District 3 Councilor Wes Nofire and District 2 Councilor Candessa Tehee.

Rhoads joined the U.S. Army in August 1969. He completed basic training at Fort Polk in Louisiana before serving in Vietnam from September 1970 through July 1971 with the 525th Military Group as a 71B20 clerk. He was honorably discharged in July 1971 with the rank of Special Fifth Class. He also served six years in the Air National Guard in Tulsa with the 219th Engineering Installation Squadron. 

Rhoads was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal and the Vietnam Campaign Medal. 

“I’m thankful for this honor,” Rhoads said. “I’m proud of my Cherokee heritage, I’m proud to have served in the military, and I’m proud to be an American.”

Sweet joined the U.S. Army in November 2001 and completed Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training before being stationed in Fort Hood, Texas. She was assigned to the 1st Calvary Division, 4 Brigade Combat Team, 1stBattalion 227 Aviation Regiment. Her team was attached to the 11th Aviation Regiment out of Germany for the start of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Sweet crossed the Kuwait and Iraqi border in March 2002, and she and her company had the first prisoners of war of the campaign when their AH-64D was shot down. Sweet was honorably discharged in September 2007. 

Sweet was awarded the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expedition Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal and the Iraq Campaign Medal. 

(L-R): Secretary of Veterans Affairs S. Joe Crittenden, At-Large Councilor Johnny Kidwell, At-Large Councilor Julia Coates, Roberta Christine Sweet, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner.

“I’m humbled just by receiving this honor,” Sweet said. “I’m proud to know that my heritage is of the Cherokee Nation. I’ve been doing a lot of research, and that’s why I decided to apply for citizenship. I’ve met a lot of people through this journey, and I’m hoping to meet more and become more a part of this community.”

Each month, the Cherokee Nation recognizes Cherokee service men and women for their sacrifices as a way to demonstrate the high regards in which all veterans are held by the tribe. Native Americans, including Cherokees, are thought to have more citizens serve per capita than any other ethnic group, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.