Press Release

Release Date: September 06, 2023
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

Recognizing the service of retired Sgt. 1st Class John Matthews, the Chickasaw Honor Guard conducted a memorial service for him more than 35 years after his interment. Tina Walker, Matthews’ daughter, represented the family at his grave located on Fort Sill Army Post Cemetery, Oklahoma.

“When my dad passed away, we didn’t have the option to celebrate him as a First American soldier. This honor guard is made up of fellow Chickasaws,” Walker said. “The Chickasaw Honor Guard didn’t come into existence until 1993, after his death. This is a way for me to honor my dad, his service and his Chickasaw heritage.”

Typical of military burials, the Chickasaw Honor Guard carried out a service that included the playing of “Taps,” performed with a ceremonial bugle, followed by a folding and presentation of the American flag to the family.

Because there were more than the federally mandated two-person detail, the five honor guard members present were able to break up into a rifle party and carry out the traditional three-volley rifle salute.

In addition to an honor guard detail, Matthews’ military service allowed him to be buried in the original Fort Sill Post Cemetery. He is surrounded by more than 7,100 other soldiers, First American leaders and prominent civilians of the 19th century. The cemetery has a long and illustrious history, with “Chiefs Knoll” listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“It was important to him to be buried on Fort Sill,” Walker said. “He was one of the last groups to be buried on post. They have run out of space in the old cemetery. An expansion has been built off post in nearby Elgin.”

Matthews had the distinction of being a combat service veteran. His military career spanned nearly 25 years and three wars. He fought in the Second World War, Korean War and served two combat tours during the Vietnam conflict.

Having the “Soldier for Life” mindset, he never thought of himself as retired. Matthews chose to spend his twilight years near other soldiers, living just outside Fort Sill Army Post, in Lawton, Oklahoma.

“Being in the military meant everything to dad,” Walker said. “He truly accepted the values the military stands for: loyalty, service, honor, courage. Even though he was exposed to Agent Orange (a chemical used in Vietnam that causes lifelong health issues), he still believed in the U.S.”

Matthews decided to join the military for a couple of reasons. His father, Oscar Hughes Matthews, was already serving at the time of his enlistment. It was also expected from the men of his age to serve. Additionally, there were few economic prospects in his hometown of Centrahoma, Oklahoma.

With the country in the throes of World War II, Matthews was 17 years old when he enlisted.

“His mother had to sign the paperwork for him to join the Army,” Walker said. “His dad was already away serving. While my dad and grandpa didn’t serve together, they were both in World War II at the same time.”

Matthews received his Chickasaw heritage from his mother, Josephine. She was a fluent speaker of the Chickasaw language. Matthews understood Chickasaw but had a limited vocabulary.

“He grew up in an era where being First American was not something everyone was proud of,” Walker said. “He didn’t talk much about being Chickasaw. His grandmother forced the family to only speak English.”

“In his heart, I think being Chickasaw meant more to him than we knew. My mom told me a story where he spoke healing words over a friend in Chickasaw. He instilled in me and my sister that we do things for ourselves, even as girls. He taught us that we don’t need to depend on others — especially a man or husband — to take care of us. Along with the warrior spirit, this is a Chickasaw trait.”

Walker is proud of her heritage. She is a strong Chickasaw woman with Chickasaw values. While not a veteran, the Chickasaw warrior spirit has always been part of her life. Her father was serving in Vietnam when she was born. Walker spent her childhood growing up in Lawton, near Fort Sill with her parents.

Walker has an innate need to serve veterans. She currently works at the Chickasaw Nation Veterans Lodge, supporting those who provide outreach services and assistance to veterans benefits from Veterans Affairs or other organizations.

“I got this duty gene from my dad,” Walker said. “My dad was all about duty, honor and taking care of those that needed help. He taught so much to everyone. I am proud that the Chickasaw Honor Guard was able to honor his service.”

About the Chickasaw Honor Guard

The Chickasaw Honor Guard conducts military honors at funerals and memorial services throughout Oklahoma. In addition, the honor guard participates in parades, powwows, ceremonies, various tribal functions and patriotic activities. The honor guard also posts colors throughout the year within the Chickasaw Nation and on a state and national level.

The Chickasaw Honor Guard is comprised of Chickasaw veterans. The first official honor guard ceremony was posting the colors at the 1993 Chickasaw Annual Meeting and Festival, as well as participating in a parade following that event.

With active duty and National Guard units unable to provide honor guards to serve at veteran military funerals, many families call on the Chickasaw Honor Guard for their services. Veterans do not have to be Chickasaw for funeral services to be provided by the Chickasaw Honor Guard. The unit recognizes all who have served their country. These memorials are done at no charge to the family.

“We honor fellow veterans by giving them their last respects,” Ray Orphan, Chickasaw Nation Director of Veterans Services and Chickasaw Honor Guard member, said. “We honor their service to the country. As a veteran myself, I know this is something they deserve."

“Honor guard members are from all branches of service. We take pride in what we do. I am proud of these Chickasaw veterans who volunteer their time to recognize a veteran’s service,” Orphan said.

The Chickasaw Honor Guard is housed within the Chickasaw Honor Guard Building. The building was dedicated in 2020. The Chickasaw Nation believes it is essential to honor the work this group does and provide a space for growth and operation.

The Chickasaw Honor Guard is looking for dedicated men and women from all military branches to join a long line of Chickasaw veterans continuing the tradition. Requirements to join include being a Chickasaw citizen, having served in one of the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces with a discharge or release other than dishonorable, or currently serving in the U. S. military.

To request the Chickasaw Honor Guard’s services, an Honor Guard Request Form must be completed. Services and activities will be scheduled according to request, date, time and place. Funerals take precedence over community events.

To request Chickasaw Honor Guard services, or for an application to become a member, visit

For more information, contact the Chickasaw Honor Guard at (580) 272-2550, email or visit