Medal of Honor Recipients
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force that can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. Recipients receive the Medal of Honor from the president on behalf of Congress. It was first awarded during the Civil War and eligibility criteria for the Medal of Honor have changed over time.
Recipients buried or memorialized here:
Private First Class John N. Reese, Jr. (World War II). John Reese, native of Oklahoma, enlisted in the U.S. Army on December 18, 1942, and served with the 148th Infantry, 37th Division, during World War II. On February 9, 1945, Private First Class Reese participated in the attack on Paco Railroad Station in Manila, Philippine Islands. Heavy fire stopped his platoon, but Reese and a comrade continued forward. For nearly three hours they disorganized the defense and disarmed emplacements guarding the station. On the way back to the U.S. lines, Reese was killed by gun fire. He received the Medal of Honor posthumously and is buried in Section 2, Site 1259-E.
First Lieutenant Jack Cleveland Montgomery (World War II). Jack Montgomery, a native of Oklahoma and part Cherokee, joined the Oklahoma National Guard in the late 1930s and in 1940–1941. He re-enlisted shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, with the U.S. Army, 180th regiment of the 45th Infantry Division. The division had the greatest number of American Indian soldiers in its ranks, who chose a familiar cultural symbol, the "Thunderbird," for their insignia. First Lieutenant Montgomery shipped out with the 45th Division to North Africa and participated in the invasion of Sicily. Fighting near Padiglione, Italy, on February 22, 1944, Montgomery and his rifle platoons attacked three strong enemy positions; several soldiers surrendered to him. For his courage, Montgomery received the Medal of Honor. He died June 11, 2002. In 2006, the VA medical center in Muskogee, Oklahoma, was renamed for him, and the first to honor an American Indian veteran. He is buried in Section 20, Site 963.
Billy Bowlegs served in the Civil War for the Union in Company A, First Indian Home Guards, in 1862–1864. The First Indian Home Guards were companies of Seminole and Creek soldiers attached to Kansas regiments during the Civil War. Captain Bowlegs is believed to be Seminole warrior So-nuk-mek-ko, who adopted the Bowlegs name after the death of Seminole Chief Billy Bowlegs in 1859. Captain Bowlegs (So-nuk-mek-ko) died in 1864, and is the only officer of the Indian Regiment interred in the officers' circle (Section OC, Site 2109).
Corporal Mager Bradley (1917–1944) enlisted in the U.S. Army at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, in April 1941, leaving work as a farmhand. He rose to the rank of corporal in the segregated 333rd Field Artillery Battalion. The unit arrived in England in February 1944 and landed in Normandy a month after D-Day, providing artillery support to advancing American forces. In early December 1944, the American forces were overrun when the German army launched its last major offensive—the Battle of the Bulge. Bradley's unit supported retreating infantry, but he and 10 comrades became separated from the main U.S. force. They were sheltered by friendly Belgians in the town of Wereth, but neighbors sympathetic to Germany revealed the presence of the Black soldiers to nearby Waffen SS who quickly took the men prisoner. On the evening of December 17, the prisoners were brutally tortured and executed. Bradley was the only victim of the massacre whose family elected to repatriate his remains to the United States. He was interred in Section 6, Site 2698-E on December 15, 1947, almost exactly three-years after his death.
Talahina (born Tiana) was one of the most powerful Cherokee women of the Tennessee region. She was the niece of two tribal leaders, Chief John Jolly and Chief Tallantusky, and the daughter of Scotch trader Captain John "Hell Fire" Rogers, who lived with the Cherokees. She became the second wife of Sam Houston, when he returned to Oklahoma to live with the tribe, ca. 1830. Houston would become president of the Republic of Texas. Talahina Rogers died from pneumonia in 1839, and was buried in Wilson Rock Cemetery, Sequoyah County. On September 4, 1904, her remains were reinterred in Fort Gibson National Cemetery, recognizing her political status by birth and marriage (Section OC, Site 2467).
Vivia Thomas died January 7, 1870, and is buried in the officers' circle at Fort Gibson National Cemetery. Nothing else of her is known with certainty, but she is a significant figure in Oklahoma's folk history. Legend holds Thomas was from Boston and disguised herself as a man to follow her fiancé to the Indian Territory after he broke their engagement. She enlisted in the Army to be close to him and discovered his liaison with another woman. Thomas shot and killed him one night. Overcome with remorse, she kept vigil at the man's grave, where she contracted pneumonia and collapsed. The story ends with her comrades honoring her courage in traveling to the frontier alone and her interment in the officers' circle (Section OC, Site 2119).
Captain John P. Decatur - Section OC Site 2101
Major Joel Elliot - Section OC Site 2233
Nelson P. Fonseca - Section 14 Site 675