More Military Honors for the Leader
Leader and James Anderson
by Gina Boltz
With thanks to Tewanna Edwards
Anderson-Edwards said as a young girl she would eat
raisins, scrunch her nose in disgust and repeat the
action, just to hear her great-uncle's laugh. She
smile just radiated warmth. It just makes you so proud
his blood runs through your veins."
November 9, 2012, Choctaw tribal member and World War I
hero, Otis Leader, was inducted into the Oklahoma
Military Hall of Fame.
As both a warrior and
Choctaw Code Talker, Leader was called one of the "war's
greatest fighting machine" and
"the greatest fighting man that ever lived"
by General John J. Pershing,
head of America's Expeditionary Forces in World War I.
Born in Oklahoma in 1882,
Leader served in the
1st Division, Co. H,
16th Infantry. On November 2, 1917, his
company drew the first relief assignment at Bathlemont,
From the trenches, Co. H defended the flank during the
American troops' first combat engagement of the war.
On May 28, 1918,
Leader was hospitalized after being wounded and gassed
at Cantigny. Two months later, he rejoined his division
in battle. Otis was wounded again on October 1 and
hospitalized at Vichy. He was still there when the
armistice was signed on November 11, 1918.
Otis Leader died March
26, 1961. He is buried in Colgate, Oklahoma
French Artist Picked Outstanding Oklahoman As Subject of
arrival in France, Otis Leader was chosen to pose as the
model representative of the American soldier. His
portrait was commissioned by the French government
Otis Leader's portrait
and statue are in Paris and London.
Two Silver Stars,
Distinguished Service Cross
Two individual awards of the
Croix de Guerre,
France's highest military honor.
Choctaw Code Talkers Finally Recognized
November 9, 2012:
On the same day that Otis Leader was inducted into
Oklahoma's Military Hall of Fame, his nephew,
James Anderson, was honored
as Citizen Soldier of the Year by Fresno City College in
Fresno, Ca. Anderson is an enrolled member
of the Chickasaw Nation in Ada, Oklahoma. Below is the speech
he gave when accepting his award.
Fate had made this day, it is a proud day for my family.
As I stand here today, my Uncle Otis Leader, the most
typical Doughboy of WWI is being inducted to the
Oklahoma Hall of Fame. General Pershing call Otis Leader
the “Greatest Fighting Man that ever lived”. Otis’s
picture hangs in an office at the Clovis Veterans
Two score and 9 years ago, I stood on this campus for
another award, my Associate of Arts degree. I was the
first of my family to receive a college degree. I return
today walking on the same grounds that I touched 49
years. I am not here alone. Fran Anderson, my lifetime
partner, has always supported in any adventure that I
have tried. Dominic Di Pierri a footballer player and
student at FCC came to my graduation, life time
friendship developed. He caddied for me in 2 PGA
tournaments which I played in as an amateur. I thank all
the Native American Indians present, I am proud of my
heritage. I have Veterans of Foreign Wars of America
Post 3225 standing at my side. Attention and stand to be
recognized, what a great band of brothers and sisters. I
share this award with you. I salute you for helping
making this award possible.
It was a golden age for Fresno City College when I
attended, the top ranked academic Junior College in the
nation, award winning marching band, national
championship in football, state championships in
basketball, wrestling, and track. Fresno City College
prepared students for continuing their education at
state colleges and universities, but also prepared
students for the work force upon graduation. Now we have
the State Center Community College District ever
changing to serve the entire valley. During my first
year, I became very ill in May, a few weeks before the
semester ended. I was in the hospital for a week for an
emergency operation. After I returned home to recuperate
for a week, every professor from every class came twice
that week to give me my lesson and catch me up with what
I missed. I returned just in time for finals and ended
up the year with one B and the rest A’s for the year.
What a great intervention, Fresno City College will
always be number one with me.
Time passed for me and the Vietnam war interrupted my
education, I served 557 th Light Equipment company. It
was a actually heavy equipment. I received no special
medals, no special honors, but I got the greatest
rewards from working to help fellow soldiers in the
field and on the bases. I dug fox holes with a trenching
machine for the first half year. If a unit moved in the
field I went with them or joined them to dig them in for
the night. Showing up late in the day, I was usually
greeted with a loud yells of appreciation I can still
see their joy in their faces and eyes. I would dig in
the perimeter while the men filled up their sand bags
from the conveyor belt. I served the First Infantry
Division the most. In the headquarters of the Big Red
One a simple flag was hung for me. If my machine broke
down they put a red flag up in the office, when I
reported back for duty they would remove the flag and
put up a green flag. It was hard to imagine a flag in
Division Headquarters for me. It was a simple
acknowledgement, but one that I cherished to this day, I
made a difference, I was important to their operations.
Three words “We need you” was all I needed. The flag was
my medal, the flag was my thank you.
After the war. we don’t talk about what we did very
much, but it would change our lives forever. Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder is probably a real event for
every soldier that served in a dangerous circumstances
in Vietnam. My first episode with PTSD was 11 years
after being discharged. Watching a movie at a theater,
caused uncontrollable crying for no apparent reason. I
thought I had resolved the burying of North Vietnamese
Army soldiers in a mass grave. I though I had resolved
the helpless feeling of loading bodies on the helicopter
that were still warm to the touch. I though I had
resolved the lost of friends. I though I had left he war
behind. No, regardless of how far you put them back in
the mind they are there for the rest of your life, there
are a reality that you must accept, it is what makes you
what your are today.
For years now we have a new wave of returning soldiers,
their harm may be greater than anything we faced, they
have needs that are unmet, they need more help. We must
find a way to do more for the young men and women who
are returning from war. We have to do more.
I was a member of Rotary International for 20 years, I
was able to participate in one of the greatest
accomplishments of our lifetime, eradication of polio
world wide. Rotary as all service clubs do outstanding
charity work in the community and world wide. When you
see a service club fundraiser, know that your money is
going to charity and not for administration. I made a
lot of friends in Rotary, last years honoree, Richard
Johanson is a great Rotarian. The highest honor in
Rotary is the Paul Harris Fellow. I am a multiple Paul
Harris Fellow. After our Rotary Club disbanded, I wanted
to join the Veterans of Foreign Wars of America. Over 40
years after discharge, I joined Clovis Post 3225, what a
great choice. I am in my second year and final year as
Post Commander. I am proud of what our post has
accomplished during my tenure. The men and women raised
funds for a monument that stands at Becky’s Country
Kitchen in Clovis. It is a beautiful monument honoring
the lost soldiers of the Clovis school District that
paid the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They answer the call for public events, honor guard,
flag ceremonies, flag retirement at a moments notice.
These men and women of the post and auxiliary have given
me more thanks and appreciation from their words, than
any award or honor can convey. You have my heart.
Today, I am proud to be honored with my friends from
the Loyal Order of the Purple Heart.
I am proud to be a veteran of the United States of
From my Chickasaw Indian Language
Yakoke, Kanih’ka Yakoke, Thank you, Thank
you very much.
Choctaw code talkers finally recognized
Choctaw Nation, Oklahoma: As a child,
Tewanna Edwards had no idea that her
great-uncle, Otis Leader, was among the
first American Indian code talkers. "I
was shocked," said Edwards, who was 20
when she found out. "He never talked
about it. They were sworn to secrecy."
Leader's descendants, and those of the
other Choctaw code talkers, will be
awarded Congressional Medals of Honor.
Formed in 1918, the Choctaw code talkers
used their native language to safely
transmit military information. At the
time, U.S. forces in France faced
continued defeats by enemy forces. “The
Germans were tapping into our phone
lines and were experts at decoding our
messages. They knew where our ammunition
dumps were; they knew where our troops
were. We couldn’t make a move without
the German Army knowing about it," said
researcher Judy Allen. “A commanding
officer happened to walk by two Choctaw
men speaking in our native language. It
was as if a light bulb went off in his
head.” “..."They died with secrets that
were never really revealed” in their
lifetime so Indian code talkers could be
used in future wars," said Gregory Pyle,
chief of the Choctaw Nation. Code talker
descendants say the recognition is long
overdue. They point out that these young
men enlisted to fight for their country
in 1918 before Natives had the right to
become U.S. citizens. “Our people, they
are very quiet, but the honor is so
important, to have their heroes finally
recognized,” Chief Pyle said. Signed by
President Bush, the code talker
legislation also recognizes Comanche and
other Native code talkers of World Wars
I and II. Their tribal languages and
efforts saved hundreds of thousands of
lives and shortened both wars.
The 18 Choctaw Code Talkers
[Editor's Note: In 1989, the French
government recognized the critical role
the Choctaw Code Talkers played in World
War I by awarding them the "Chevalier de
L'Ordre National du Merite" (the Knight
of the National Order of Merit), the
highest honor France can bestow.
Choctaw codetalkers association
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