Posted: Sat Sep 01, 2007 5:24 am Post subject: Cherokee Loses a Special Man
Cherokee Loses a Special Man
Lynne Harlan/Eastern Band of Cherokee
Published August 31, 2007 – Asheville Citizen – Times
Our community lost an American hero. Mr. Soldier Sanders lived in our community for many years with his wife Kathryn, who was born and raised here. They came here to raise a family, and their influence in our community was great. Kay worked as a teacher, and even though many thought she was mean, many students grew to admire her and attribute their success to her high standards.
Sanders was born and raised in Oklahoma. He was a Cherokee man in many ways. In a story he told once, he said his name came from his uncles who returned from military service in World War I. His life was the epitome of what Cherokee people have valued throughout our history. He attended boarding school before joining the Army Air Corps and serving in World War II. While over Germany, his plane was shot down and he became a prisoner of war. He escaped captivity and was awarded the Oklahoma Cross of Valor and received an Escape and Evadee Society medal.
When Sanders returned home, his service to people continued. He worked as an educator and coach in Oklahoma, and many young men speak of his influence in their lives. My father was one of those young men who were inspired by Sanders and followed in his footsteps to the military and into the Korean War. One of my uncles told me a story of how Sanders would come and hire him to caddy for his weekend rounds of golf and how he felt such pride at accompanying Sanders on the golf course.
Sanders worked as a postmaster but continued to influence people with his quiet dignity. He inspired me to understand what military service means and how those who fight for our freedom seldom fail to contribute long after their military service is completed. Sanders’ solemn determination brought him through a difficult educational system which took him from his family but which gave him the strength to survive a war. His commitment to Cherokee people took him from one community into another and shows that our families are close despite the nearly 1,000 miles between Cherokee and Stilwell, Okla.
As the greatest generation makes the final journey, it has caused me to question how I have let them go without finding out all their stories, and how we must work to learn about their lives while they can still speak for themselves. We must decide to listen before our generation is the last, and we must teach those seven generations which come after us to do the same.
Lynne Harlan is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and serves as the public relations coordinator for the tribe.
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