The U.S. military is composed of more than 1.2 million men and women, serving in the four branches of the Armed Forces - and Tahlequah residents go to great lengths to recognize those who make this area their home.
The Cherokee Nation has a long tradition of honoring its warriors, and veterans of the U.S. military are treated no differently. CN honors veterans every month by presenting the tribe's Medal of Patriotism to select service members.
Continuing with the tribe's approach to honoring veterans, it will host a Veterans Appreciation Day Friday, at 9 a.m. at the Cherokee Nation Veterans Center. The event includes a wreath-laying ceremony, cultural activities, a resource fair, and lunch for veterans.
"That's open to all veterans and widows, also," said Barbara Foreman, CNVC director. "I think we have 24 resource tables that are going to be set up, so we'll be pretty packed. It's really just our version of Veterans Day, and we do it on Friday so our veterans can take advantage of all the other activities going on."
On Saturday, a number of events are staged to honor veterans, including a wreath-laying ceremony at the Cherokee Nation Courthouse Square, prior to the 11 a.m. Veterans Day Parade on Muskogee Avenue.
"This year, we're going to observe [Veterans Day] on Saturday, Nov. 10, so we'll just treat it like its Nov. 11," said Faye Morrison, secretary at the VFW. "All of the veterans organizations usually come, and there's an attempt at making a little bit of remembrance. Then they go and participate in the parade, which starts right after at 11 a.m."
Every year, local veterans organizations, businesses and other groups participate in the Veterans Day Parade. Those who attend might see local bands, firefighters, and Boy Scout troops walking along Main Street. Another group whose presence visitors might notice is the Blue Star Mothers, a nonprofit organization that sends care packages every month to soldiers overseas.
"I have chill bumps just watching the parade, and seeing the flags and veterans that are out there," said Melody Parker, local Blue Star Mothers president. "There's a pretty wide variety of experiences of service there. It's just really, really neat to watch them and a good way to say thank you, because we don't always remember."
After the annual Veterans Day Parade, the public is invited to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3707, at 128 E. Choctaw Street, for lunch. Veterans eat for free, and meals for non-veterans pay $3. The menu will be a choice of stew, chili, or beans. Cornbread, crackers, a drink and dessert will also be included. Morrison said the lunch is typically well-attended by members of all the local veterans organizations.
Also Saturday, Northeastern State University will announce the names of its new veterans student lounges at 2 p.m, in the University Center Basement in Tahlequah. The lounges were opened on both the Tahlequah and Broken Arrow campuses earlier this year, and they are designated spaces for veterans.
"We had significant input from our students, alumni and community members on the naming of our new Veteran Student Lounges," said NSU President Steve Turner. "The stories of their devotion to duty was inspiring, and I am looking forward to announcing those who were selected."
The American Legion Post 135 will hosting a Marine Corps birthday party Saturday, at 1309 N Legion Drive off of Allen Road. The party runs from 4 to 9 p.m., and all Marines and family are invited to join.
Vets will be able to find free meals Sunday, Nov. 11, as McDonald's is offering a free Extra Value Meal to active or retired armed forces servicemen and service women showing proper on ID. Reasor's will also offer vets and active-duty personnel a free meal from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
For the final in the series, area veterans will share their memories.