Cherokee Nation awards patriotism medal to three veterans
Times Record, Fort Smith, Ark.
FORT SMITH, Ark. — The Cherokee Nation honored three Cherokee military veterans, including Randy Thomas of Sallisaw, with the Cherokee Medal of Patriotism at a Tribal Council meeting this week.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden awarded Thomas, 54, Lacy Backward, 90 of Salina, Okla., and Jeffery Simpson, 70, of Stilwell, Okla., the medal and a plaque acknowledging their service to the United States. According to a news release, the Cherokee Nation recognizes its veterans each month to demonstrate the high regard with which they are held by the tribe.
Thomas, born to Harvey and Bettye Thomas at Muskogee, enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1982. Thomas and his wife Brenda Thomas have two children.
“I am real thankful to the Cherokee Nation. The nation has helped me through the years, and I am really humbled to be honored,” Thomas said.
He completed Marine basic training in San Diego, and during his enlistment with the Reserve, Thomas earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Northeastern State University.
Thomas left the Reserve in 1990, and in 1998, he enlisted in the Air Force National Guard where he trained in ground radio repair.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Thomas volunteered for overseas service and served with the 379th Expeditionary Squadron at Al Udeid Air Base at Qatar. He acted as a security escort for foreign contractors and as an electrical systems apprentice with the Civil Engineering Squadron’s electrical shop.
Then a staff sergeant, Thomas received an honorable discharge in 2004 and has received numerous honors, including the Navy Meritorious Unit Citation Ribbon, Cold War Certificate, Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal and National Defense Service Medal.
World War II veteran Backward, born to Sampson and Muggie Backward at Locust Grove, was drafted into the Army in 1943 and completed basic training at Camp Mackall, N.C.
Trained as a paratrooper, Backward was assigned to the 11th Airborne Division and saw combat. Following a year’s training, the division was deployed to New Guinea and then the Philippine Islands. Its mission was to seize and secure within its zone all exits from the mountains into Leyte Valley.
Then a private first class, Backward received an honorable discharge in 1946 with numerous honors, including the Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal and World War II Victory Medal.
He returned to Salina where he and his late wife Luella Backward raised two children.
Simpson, born to Alyene Hogner at Tahlequah, graduated from Stilwell High School in 1961 then received a drafting degree from the then Oklahoma State Tech School at Okmulgee before enlisting in the Army in 1965. He completed basic training at Fort Polk, La.
Simpson continued training in topography at Fort Belvoir, Va. He served 24 months with the Third Armored Division in Germany and five months with the 502nd Administration Company at Fort Hood, Texas.
Then a specialist E-5, Simpson received an honorable discharge in 1968 and worked as a draftsman for two years for North American Rockwell at Tulsa for the Apollo Space Program. Simpson later worked in engineering and drafting for 41 years with pipeline equipment and services corporation T.D. Williamson. He retired in 2005, and now serves as Fairfield Community Organization chairman.
Simpson and his wife, Joanna Simpson, have two daughters.