Charles George, American Hero | Cherokee, NC

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Charles George, American Hero

When he was only 20 years old, Charles George from Cherokee, NC, made the ultimate sacrifice in the Korean War. He gave his life to save the lives of five fellow soldiers. Witness to a grenade launch that was aimed at his group, Charles pushed one of his brothers in arms out of the way, and threw himself on top of the grenade, absorbing the full impact with his body in order to save his friends.

Mortally wounded, but still conscious, Private First Class George didn’t make a noise, not even a whimper, lest he endanger his comrades in hiding. When he was rushed back to the aid station, medics tried in vain to save his life, but nothing could be done. In the early hours of November 30th, 1952, Charles passed away as an American hero. After his death, George was awarded the Medal of Honor, for his outstanding courage.

(Photo courtesy The Cherokee One Feather, from the Charles George VA Medical Center.) 

An Unveiling, Rededication & Celebration

Last Veterans Day,  to honor George and pay respect to veterans everywhere, a bronze sculpture of Charles George by the late James Spratt was installed at the Cherokee Veterans Memorial Park as part of the Veterans Day Celebration in Cherokee, NC. An annual event, the Veterans Day Celebration has taken place in Cherokee for over 50 years.

An identical statue of George is installed at the VA hospital in Asheville that bears his name, the Charles George VA Medical Center (CGVAMC). Sadly, the sculptor Spratt, a US Navy veteran and long-time patient at the CGVAMC, passed away from cancer the same day as the Asheville unveiling.

In Cherokee, the Charles George statue unveiling ceremony was a rededication of the newly renovated Veterans Memorial Park.

(Photo courtesy The Cherokee One Feather, from the Charles George VA Medical Center statue unveiling.) 

A Patriotic People

The park is dedicated to the Cherokee services members that have served in the United States armed forces. A granite memorial in the park lists the names of every known Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian that has served in the US armed forces since the war of 1812.

“Updating the memorials is an ongoing process, with names added of those who have served honorably in the armed forces,” says Warren Dupree, United States Navy veteran and member of the Charles George Memorial Fund Project Committee. Between active duty and reserves, Dupree has more than 35 years of military service.

“Native Americans are very patriotic and they are strong supporters of the United States armed forces,” says Dupree.

Today, there are estimated to be 800 to 900 living Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian veterans.  

“Native Americans are a warrior people and they understand the need to be strong in order to protect, and they have always—and will always—support the armed forces in a very meaningful way,” says Dupree.

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