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Roswell veteran helps lay wreath at national shrine

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Four Chickasaw Vietnam War veterans lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery Nov. 12. The veterans are, back, left to right, Knute Landreth Jr., Roswell, New Mexico and Bruce Squires, Fargo, North Dakota. Front, left to right, are Gene Jefferson, Ada, Oklahoma, and Donald Yegge, Loyalton, California. (Submitted photo / Jacquelyn Sparks)

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Chickasaw Nation warriors laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery Monday, Nov. 12, to honor veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice defending freedom.

Four Chickasaw Vietnam War veterans represented their tribe at the national shrine. They included Ada, Oklahoma, resident Gene Jefferson, a Marine sergeant who served as a helicopter machine gun operator; Donald Yegge, a Loyalton, California, resident who served as a gunner’s mate in the Navy; Knute Landreth Jr., a Roswell, New Mexico, resident and former Army sergeant who served as a stealth “search and destroy” warrior; and Bruce Squires, a Fargo, North Dakota, resident, and first lieutenant in the Army. All were involved in combat.

“Oh, wow, it was very emotional,” Yegge said in describing the honor of laying a wreath while representing the Chickasaw Nation. “The sergeant said ‘where are you from?’ We said Oklahoma, California, New Mexico and North Dakota … from the Chickasaw Nation.”

“I got to a place very few people in the United States will ever get to be thanks to the Chickasaw Nation,” Landreth said of being merely steps away from of the Tomb of the Unknowns. “It was just unbelievable. I don’t know how I was selected. It meant a lot to me. It was a great honor.”

The servicemen were part of a dozen Chickasaw veterans and citizens who attended a five-day trip to America’s Capitol by the Chickasaw Nation. Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby said the trip is an expression of appreciation to Chickasaws who have served their country.

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“There is something truly special about those men and women who serve in the armed forces to defend our freedoms and way of life,” said Anoatubby. “While it is important to make a special effort to honor their service on Veterans Day, it is always appropriate to express our appreciation for their sacrifice and dedication.”

This year’s excursion has taken the warriors to monuments honoring the nation’s greatest leaders and sites commemorating wars where Americans have fought with valor and dignity in the name of freedom.

Two other Chickasaw veterans who represented the Chickasaw Nation at the tomb also expressed how much it meant to them to be given the privilege of laying the wreath.

“It was very special,” said Jefferson. Squires said the respect shown to the veterans “was humbling.”

Several Chickasaw veterans were thanked for their service by a man who came to America from Belize and works as a volunteer at Arlington Nation Cemetery.

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