Published November 26, 2017
WASHINGTON — Several Chickasaw Vietnam War veterans have vivid memories of the disdain some members of a divided nation exhibited toward them almost 50 years ago.
They are seeing a different attitude now.
The group of 18 Chickasaw Warriors witnessed the 35th anniversary commemoration of the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial in Washington, D.C. during a tour of the nation’s capital sponsored by the Chickasaw Nation to honor their service, dedication and bravery.
During the memorial, Chickasaw veterans received thanks for their service and sacrifice by top military officials, Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and passersby who swarmed the area located immediately northeast of the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall.
Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby said Veterans Day should serve as a reminder to recognize the commitment of those who serve in the armed forces.
“It is important to acknowledge the great debt we owe to the men and women who place their own safety and security on the line to defend our freedom,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “While Veterans Day offers a unique opportunity to personally thank these individuals for their service, it is always fitting to express our appreciation for the work they do to protect our way of life.”
For retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Durward “Dee” Rushforth, a Fairfax, Virginia, resident and Purple Heart recipient, it was an opportunity for introspection.
“I volunteered (for) two tours in Vietnam,” he said. “I did one (tour) for myself and the other for somebody who chose not to serve.”
Lt. Col. Rushforth and his wife, Barbara, moved 17 times in the first 15 years of his military career. Today, those memories evoke a smile. When it was occurring, smiles were few, he admits.
After 22 years of service, Lt. Col. Rushforth retired from active military duty. He continued working in the Pentagon for a private contractor and may have died Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists flew a passenger airliner into the building, but for the fact he was assigned new office space in June 2001.
Two Chickasaw Warriors served as a Navy Hospital Corpsman and an Army Medic – different titles for the same job. They treated wounded soldiers in the field. It is one of the most dangerous duties a soldier can be assigned.
“The enemy had three primary targets,” said Donald Bourland, a resident of Monroe, Washington. “They (targeted) commissioned officers, radio communication specialists and medical personnel,” he said in subdued tones.
Mr. Bourland served in the U.S. Navy and was called a “corpsman.”
Ronald Allison was in the U.S. Army and was a “medic.” The soldiers called them “Doc.” Mr. Allison served from 1966-69. Mr. Bourland served in combat from November 1966-67, but did not leave the military until 1970.
Bonnie Moore is shy concerning her Vietnam War-era service, but received a rousing round of applause from her fellow Chickasaw Warriors when the group visited Arlington National Cemetery.
It was there they learned Mrs. Moore is included in The Women in Military Service for America Memorial. It is the nation’s only major memorial honoring all servicewomen, past and present.
Mrs. Moore, of Edwardsville, Illinois, is joined in the memorial by late Chickasaw Warrior Beaulah Shavney, a Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) veteran of World War II. Mrs. Shavney passed away in February 2014. Mrs. Moore was stationed at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina; Ft. Sheridan, Illinois, and Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri, entering the service in 1966 and completing her duty in 1971.
Three Chickasaw warriors served aboard aircraft carriers and another served on a Nitro-class ammunition ship. Robert “Bob” Nichols, a resident of Garland, Texas, was stationed on the USS Kitty Hawk; Gary Cooper, a resident of Robinson, Texas, was aboard the USS Lexington and Barry Allen, of Owasso, Oklahoma, served on the USS Haleakala.
William Hilton, a Lake City, Florida, resident, served four tours in Vietnam. He joined at age 17 and his mother signed the papers for him to enlist. Mr. Hilton was aboard the USS Hancock and served 20 years in the military, retiring in 1985.
Another U.S. Navy veteran, James Priest, was in the Navy Seabees and served as a draftsman in Yokosuka, Japan. Don Goldsby, a Goldsby, Oklahoma, resident, served in the Navy as well for one year. His ancestors founded the community of Goldsby. He was stationed in Jacksonville, Florida, serving in the Atlantic Fleet from 1967-68.
Larry Paul, a Georgetown, South Carolina, resident, was the only Marine represented in the 2017 class of Chickasaw veteran honorees. He was a sergeant and served from 1966-72. He saw action in Vietnam from 1966-68.
U.S. Marines are part of the U.S. Navy. Sgt. Paul’s immense sense of humor, coupled with his pride in having served, persuaded him to join all U.S. Navy veterans at the Navy Memorial for a group photo. His fellow brothers-in-arms teased him goodheartedly about being included in the “Navy” photo.
Larry Hogland, a Corinth, Mississippi, resident, served from 1966-70 and was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal. Mr. Hogland did a tour of duty with specificity. He was involved from 11-2-1967 to 11-2-1968. Now retired, he spends as much time on the golf course as he can.
Several Oklahoma veterans saw action in locations far from Vietnam. Bill Green, a Goldsby, Oklahoma, resident, was an aviation mechanic in Guam, Okinawa and Thailand in addition to a couple of stops in European bases. He was stationed at Mather Air Force Base in California serving from 1965-68.
Johnny Young, a Marietta, Oklahoma, resident, saw action in Vietnam with the U.S. Army. He joined in 1964 and was honorably discharged in 1971. He was stationed out of Ft. Ord, California during basic training.
George Davis, who resides in Blanchard, served his country at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, as a sergeant in the U.S. Army. He trained soldiers for combat from 1966-68.
Richard Nichols, an Achille, Oklahoma, resident, served both in the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army Reserve. During Vietnam, his military activity began in 1966 and ended in 1970. He joined the Army Reserve in 1977 and continued service the country until 1996.
Vancouver, Washington, Chickasaw Warrior Robert Andrews served 38 years in the U.S. Army, from 1966 to 2004. He was stationed in bases throughout America and Germany during this time. Capt. Andrews was severely injured in Vietnam when the helicopter he was flying ran out of fuel and crashed. He spent six days alone in the midst of the enemy before being rescued.
This BBSNews article originally appeared on Native News Online.