TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (KFOR) – The Cherokee Nation is honoring three veterans in the month of February.

According to the Cherokee Nation, the veterans were honored with the Medal of Patriotism during the February meeting of the Council of the Cherokee Nation on Feb. 13.

Ralph Hanes of Shawnee, Phillip Buford of Hulbert, and William Rabbit of Pryor were recognized by Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs S. Joe Crittenden for their service to their country.

According to the tribe, Hanes achieved the rank of Colonel and was assigned many prestigious roles, including the following: Civil Affairs Staff Officer of Joint Task Force at Camp Bulkeley in Guantanamo, Cuba; Commander of the Multinational Division in Tuzla, Bosnia; and the Army Representative for Oil and Energy to the U.S. State Department for The Future of Iraq Working Group. Hanes retired briefly in June 2003 before being recalled to service in 2005. He retired permanently in July 2006.

At-large Councilors Johnny Kidwell and Julia Coates, Secretary of Veterans Affairs S. Joe Crittenden, Catherine “Lori” Hastings, Ralph Hanes, Florence Hanes, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. Image courtesy the Cherokee Nation.

The Cherokee Nation says Buford joined the U.S. Marine Corps on May 6, 1969, and completed boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego before training as a radio operator at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. After completing training, he was deployed to Vietnam, where he was stationed at Landing Zone Baldy and was assigned to Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines. He was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with one Bronze Star, the Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device and the Rifle Sharpshooter Badge. Buford was honorably discharged on March 10, 1971.

“If I was young and in the position to serve my country again, I would do it without hesitation,” Buford said.

Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Phillip Buford, Secretary of Veterans Affairs S. Joe Crittenden, District 1 Councilor Rex Jordan. Image courtesy the Cherokee Nation.

Rabbit joined the Army in 1967 after turning down an art scholarship at the reputable Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He completed two tours in Vietnam, according to officials.

The tribe says Rabbit passed away in April 2012 due to exposure to Agent Orange during his military service. His family attended the meeting to accept the Medal of Patriotism.

Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Traci Rabbit, Karen Rabbit, District 15 Councilor Danny Callison, Cherokee Nation Treasurer Janees Taylor, Secretary of Veterans Affairs S. Joe Crittenden, Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. Image courtesy the Cherokee Nation.

Every month, the Cherokee Nation honors service men and women for their sacrifices as a way to display the high regard in which all veterans are held by the tribe. Officials say Native Americans, including Cherokees, are thought to have more citizens serving per capita than any other ethnic group.