Cherokee World War II hero honored

by May 14, 2024NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments


One Feather Asst. Editor


CHEROKEE, N.C. – A Cherokee hero was celebrated and recognized for his military service during an event at the Yellowhill Activity Center on the evening of Monday, May 13.  PFC Reuben Taylor, an elder of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and a World War II veteran, was honored at the event which was organized by the Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143 and Auxiliary Unit 143.

Gregory Hunt, left, of the Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143, presents PFC Reuben Taylor, an elder of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and a World War II veteran, with the Chapel of the Four Chaplains Legion of Honor Bronze Medallion at an event honoring PFC Taylor held at the Yellowhill Activity Center on the evening of Monday, May 13. PFC Taylor served in the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 82nd Airborne Division. (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photos)

Gregory Hunt, Post 143, served as emcee for the event and told the crowd, “It’s imperative that we see and take heed of the service of Reuben Taylor. That service that he exhibited during his World War II military service and his service as a veteran to his community since coming home, we just want to honor and thank our brother Reuben for all that he has done.”

During the event, Hunt presented PFC Taylor with the Chapel of the Four Chaplains Legion of Honor Bronze Medallion.  He told the story of the four chaplains who went down with the U.S.A.T. Dorchester on Feb. 3, 1943 following a German torpedo attack as the ship traveled in icy waters from Newfoundland heading towards Greenland.  The chaplains, from four different faiths, worked to calm the sailors, help the wounded, and helped as many get to safety as possible.

Hunt noted, “The calmness of these chaplains during the deadly encounter ensured the sailors were considered first among themselves, or above themselves. This is how I have come to know Reuben through the years. He maintains that quiet, distinguished professionalism and leads with his actions, not needing many words.”

“The Legion of Honor Bronze Medallion is an award given by the Chapel in recognition of exceptional selfless service on the part of an individual which contributes to the wellbeing of others within and outside their communities.”

PFC Taylor served in the U.S. Army from 1942-47 in the 504th Parachute Infantry Division, 82nd Airborne Division.  At the age of 16, he entered basic training at Fort Bragg, N.C. on Aug. 13, 1942.  He then attended Paratrooper Training at Fort Benning, Ga. after which he was assigned to the then-newly formed 82nd Airborne Division.

In 1943, PFC Taylor was deployed to Casablanca, North Africa after which they went back to Europe.  He was a part of Operation Market-Garden, also known as the Invasion of Holland, on Sept. 17, 1944.  Several months later, he and his fellow soldiers took part in the Battle of the Bulge.

The obverse of the Chapel of the Four Chaplains Legion of Honor Bronze Medallion is shown.

He received many awards and decorations for his military service including: Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, French Croix de Guerre, Presidential Unit Citation, Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Senior Parachutist Badge.

The Cherokee High School Army JROTC obstacle course was named, “Reuben’s Run”, in his honor on May 2, 2023.

PFC Taylor recently lost his home to a fire.  During Monday’s event, he was presented with several items to replace ones lost in that fire including a Post 143 leather jacket with various patches, a 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment hat, and a framed U.S. Army Honorable Discharge certificate.

Lake Silver, western North Carolina representative from Congressman Chuck Edwards’ (R-N.C.) office, presented PFC Taylor with a U.S. flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol last month.  He commented, “I’m a little different from most people my age. I’ve spent hours and hours reading about World War II. It is something that I’m just an absolute nut about. I worry that people my age and younger, and some folks older than me, can read all the books in the world and we’ll never truly be able to understand and know what Mr. Taylor and other members of our Armed Forces went through fighting what was truly evil. It was a truly evil force. So, from the bottom of my heart, and as someone who is absolutely a huge fan, a huge fan of you and everyone who fought in that war, thank you so much for your service. Thank you so much”

PFC Reuben Taylor, seated, is presented with the “Standing Strong” Pendleton blanket by his daughter, Frances Walkingstick, left, and Sharon French, right, representing the Steve Youngdeer American Legion Auxiliary Unit 143. The blanket is number three of a limited edition run of 250.

Silver then read a letter from Congressman Edwards that read in part, ” Private First Class Reuben E. Taylor, please accept my sincere appreciation for your service to the United States and the U.S. Army during World War II. Your selflessness is evident in the numerous medals and awards that recognize your sacrifice and devotion to serving this country. Patriots like yourself valiantly carried on the storied tradition of courage, service, and faithfulness that characterizes our Armed Forces. Your legacy will be remembered in western North Carolina for generations to come. May we never forget the sacrifices made by those in uniform, past and present, and always keep our dedicated service members in our thoughts and prayers.”

At the end of the event, PFC Taylor was presented with the “Standing Strong” limited edition Pendleton blanket.  A total of 250 were made, and he was given number three.