Published April 15, 2016
WESTVILLE, OKLAHOMA – Just outside of Westville, on a winding side road off U.S. Route 62, James “Jimmy” L. Green lives with his wife, Barbara, on a small farm overlooking the Ozarks.
“They changed my name in the military,” said Green, a Cherokee Nation citizen. “My parents named me Jimmy, but they made a mistake when I enrolled, so James is my legal name now.”
Green, 67, is a Vietnam veteran serving in the United States Army. He is one of the 74 veterans being honored on the first O&A (Oklahoma and Arkansas) Honor Flight, based in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, and the newest branch of the Honor Flight Network.
Honor Flight Network was established in 2004 to honor veterans for their sacrifices. The nonprofit offers veterans a free flight to Washington, D.C., where they visit military memorials and tour nearby Arlington National Cemetery. Honor Flight Network flew 20,886 veterans in 2015.
O&A Honor Flight will host an honoring banquet for the veterans at Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs on April 19, where the veterans are staying for the night. The next morning, at 4:30 a.m., they’ll caravan with a police and fire escort to Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Bentonville. The public is invited to both events. The hotel rooms are sponsored by Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.
“I think it’s great for the vets who haven’t had an opportunity to see the memorial wall,” Green said.
He volunteered for the Army as part of the buddy system with his two pals, Charlie King and the late Arthur Thompson in 1967, when he was 18 years old.
“I was a gunner,” said Green. “I served with the 84th engineer’s combat unit on a .50 caliber machine gun. We built bridges, did mine sweeps. I was there for the Tet Offensive in 68.”
Green has a steel rod inserted into his neck for an injury sustained during his service. In 2006, Green also had cancer removed from the back of his ears caused by Agent Orange, one of the defoliants used for herbicidal warfare in Vietnam.
“My good buddy Arthur Thompson died from Agent Orange,” said Green. “It’s sad. Some things about the military really make you grow up fast.”
He still manages to laugh and share some of the stories he experienced during that time.
Green served in the U.S. Army from 1967-1970. Since his return, James “Jimmy” Green and Barbara, his wife of 42 years, have spent time growing their family. They have six children, 22 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He has three children and three grandchildren who work for Cherokee Nation and its subsidiaries.
The retired vet looks forward to the flight next week.
“I’m grateful,” said Green. “It will be a kind of closure for the things I’ve seen over the years, the friends I’ve lost.”
O&A Honor Flight is honoring 15 World War II, 34 Korean War and 25 Vietnam veterans for 2016.
This BBSNews article originally appeared on Native News Online.