Family Tradition of Honor and a Legacy of Service
show that Native Americans have the highest record of military service per capita
when compared to other ethnic groups, but the story of one Chickasaw family from
Oklahoma probably says more about that tradition of military service than any
set of statistics.
When Henry A. Kale and Lurena Cheadle married in Milburn,
Oklahoma on October 21, 1913, there was little way they could have known their
union would result in the birth of seven sons and three daughters, or that it
would lead to a legacy of military service that would be celebrated into the next
That, however, is exactly what happened as every one of their seven
sons - Wilson, Douglas, Claywood, Jack, Henry Jr., Kenneth and Carroll - served
in the armed forces of the United States of America.
"This is a legacy
that all Chickasaws, and all Americans, can be proud of," said Chickasaw
Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby. "The fact that these seven brothers all volunteered
to serve their country says a great deal about them as individuals. Beyond that,
it says so much about the parents who taught them the Chickasaw traditions of
honor, courage, patriotism and a willingness to make a personal sacrifice for
the good of their fellow man."
Douglas, the second oldest of the brothers,
put it this way, "I think the bottom line with us is we never forgot our
tradition, our heritage. Our culture is still there. It will never go away.
"We're all real proud of our record. We live in a great country, and we're
proud to have served it."
Four of the brothers served during World War
II, while the others served in the Korean Conflict, with one of those also seeing
Cold War duty during the Berlin Crisis as well as duty in Vietnam.
the most decorated of the brothers, earned 13 battle stars during his service
aboard the navy destroyer U.S.S. Sands in World War II, where he served in the
Pacific Theater for his entire military career.
The Sands participated in
virtually all the major battles against the Japanese empire, including Iwo Jima,
Guam and Bataan among others, and was placed in dry dock twice to repair damages
sustained in battle.
Claywood was president of the student council his senior
year in high school and could have attended the college of his choice, but his
patriotism led him to join the navy at the age of 17.
Eldest brother Wilson
was awarded seven battle stars, and participated in D-Day landings in Sicily,
Salerno, Anzio and Southern France, then proceeded through France, Alsace, Lorraine
and across the Rhine River into Germany. He achieved the rank of seargent.
Wilson joined Oklahoma's 45th Division in 1940, He had basic and various training
at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma; Abilene, Texas; Ft. Divens, Mass.; Pine Camp, New York
and Camp Pickett, Virginia. He departed for North Africa in 1943 and was in Munich,
Germany on V-E Day in 1945.
Even though they returned home with such an outstanding
record of military service, the relationship between each of the seven brothers
and the father who raised them to be such brave patriots never changed, according
"When we got back, it didn't matter how many battle stars
we had or where we'd been, Dad was still the big chief."
the Army in 1943 and was stationed in Bermuda for 18 months, where he was promoted
to the rank of sergeant.
Jack also felt the call of duty during the second
world war and joined the Navy at the tender age of 16, before returning home to
finish high school after his tour of duty.
While too young to serve in World
War II, Henry Jr. enlisted in the Army during the Korean War. He graduated fourth
in a class of 300 from the Second Armored Division Leadership School and was promoted
to sergeant first class while stationed in Baumholer, Germany.
joined the Navy during the Korean conflict and served four years aboard the U.S.S.
Inslow, which was engaged in many battles.
Carroll served in the Army from
1955 to 1957 and was recalled to active service during the Berlin crisis in October
1961. He retired from the Army in 1980, after 21 years of service, including time
in Korea and Vietnam.
Considering the record of service of their brothers,
it may come as no surprise that each of their three sisters wound up marrying
Ramona married a marine while Helen married a member of the
Melba married Clarence Reed from Gene Autry, Oklahoma, who eventually
became a navy pilot in World War II. During his time in the service, Clarence
befriended Pappy Boyington, the marine pilot on who was the inspiration for the
television series "Baa Baa Black Sheep."
The sense of personal and
family pride instilled in each of the children by their parents and which led
to such distinguished military careers for each of the brothers was evident at
an early age, according to Melba.
"When we enrolled in Dundee School
we all excelled. They all were football stars. Kenneth was a golden gloves boxer.
Hank was a track man. I was in band and drama.
"The superintendent told
me later - 'All these other kids grew up together, but when you all moved out
here to go to school, you were so competitive and so active in sports and drama
and all the other activities that these other kids had to come up and compete.
You don't know what you did for this school.' I thought that was one of the highest
compliments we could ever get."
Melba said their parents also inspired
a sense of loyalty which helped hold the family together after the tragedy of
their mother Lurena's death in 1939.
"Our mother died in '39 and we
had a sister, Helen, who came back and helped our father raise us," said
Melba. "She was working for our aunt at a bank in Tishomingo - and jobs were
hard to come by at that time - but my father didn't have to ask her to come back.
She just came back - and from that time on she helped our father raise the rest
Perhaps Douglas found the best way to sum up the family legacy
when he said, "Our folks raised us right. We're quite a family. We're a real
dedicated family, real close."
Nation media relations coordinator, Tony Choate, can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].