Throughout history, Chickasaw servicemen and women have been vital to the U.S. military, both on and off the battlefield. Their bravery and fortitude have long safeguarded the liberties our nation holds dear. This year, as Veterans Day approaches, we honor and recognize Nathaniel Thomas, Jeraldine "Jerry" Brown and Gene Arpelar—just a few of the Chickasaw warriors who have sacrificed on our behalf. Their memories and experiences represent an era when both young and old, men and women, gave their all for freedom on the home front and abroad.
"When the war broke out I thought about joining the services, but at the time, I was too young," says World War II Veteran Nathaniel Thomas. "When I became 17 I managed to talk my mother into signing the papers so I could go. When the war was over we sent all of our flares up into the air that night, celebrating the victory. It was beautiful." Women like Jerry Brown answered the call, working for our nation's intelligence services. "They kept saying, if we had women in service, maybe we wouldn't have to draft fathers," Jerry says. "That was the key phrase that talked me into enlisting. I reported for duty the first day of July in 1943." And for other Chickasaw warriors, like Gene Arpelar, the experience of fighting for freedom cemented their love for the United States of America and their home state of Oklahoma. "You get to see how other people live, and I'd never been to a country I'd trade for this United States of America," Gene recounts. "I grew up here in this country. I grew up in Oklahoma. It gives you a pride in the United States of America."