Cherokee Nation

(L to R) Cherokee Nation Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Tribal Councilor Keith Austin, U.S. Marine veteran John Steele, Pamela Steele and Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker.

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation honored three military veterans with the tribe’s Medal of Patriotism during the November Tribal Council meeting.

Billie Napolitano, 74, of Grove; John Steele, 71, of Claremore; and Jack Highers Jr., 61, of Muskogee, were recognized by Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, acknowledging their service and sacrifice to their country.

Sgt. Napolitano was born in August of 1943 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1962. She completed boot camp in Bainbridge, Maryland, and was assigned to a duty station in Great Lakes, Illinois. After completing her first duty station, Napolitano was deployed to Barbers Naval Air Station in Hawaii, where she served as a Yeoman, a chief clerical assistant. She received several medals and awards for her service during the Vietnam era and was honorably discharged in 1965.

“I joined the Navy so that I could honor my father and all who went before us,” Napolitano said. “As a Vietnam-era veteran and the widow of a Vietnam-era veteran, I want to say thank you. This is a great honor.”

Sgt. Steele was born in June of 1946 and enlisted in the U.S. Marines in 1965. Steele completed basic training in both San Diego and Oceanside, California, before being deployed to Hue Co Ion Helicopter Base in Vietnam. While in Vietnam, Steele served as a crew chief and a door gunner aboard a medevac emergency chopper. After completing his deployment in Vietnam, Steele was transferred to Dallas, Texas, and was honorably discharged in 1971.

Sgt. Highers was born in July of 1956 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1977, after attending college. After completing training as a mess management specialist, Highers was transferred to his first duty state in California and was then deployed to Aganua, Guam. During the Kuwait conflict, Highers served in the active reserves, and later the inactive reserves through the end of the conflict. Highers received several medals and awards for his service and was honorably discharged in 1982.

Each month the Cherokee Nation recognizes Cherokee service men and women for their sacrifices and as a way to demonstrate the high regard in which all veterans are held by the tribe. Native Americans, including Cherokees, are thought to have more citizens serving per capita than any other ethnic group according to the U.S. Department of Defense. To nominate a veteran who is a Cherokee Nation citizen, please call 918-772-4166.

About Cherokee Nation

The Cherokee Nation is the federally recognized government of the Cherokee people and has inherent sovereign status recognized by treaty and law. The seat of tribal government is the W.W. Keeler Complex near Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the capital of the Cherokee Nation. With more than 360,000 citizens, 11,000 employees and a variety of tribal enterprises ranging from aerospace and defense contracts to entertainment venues, Cherokee Nation is one of the largest employers in northeastern Oklahoma and the largest tribal nation in the United States.

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