More Military Honors for the Leader Family
Otis Leader   and  James Anderson

by Gina Boltz
With thanks to Tewanna Edwards

Otis Leader

Tewanna 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 recalls:

 "His smile just radiated warmth.  It just makes you so proud his blood runs through your veins."

Otis Leader, 1918

Otis Leader, 1940

On 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,  Otis 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 War Painting

Upon his 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.

Purple Heart
Two Silver Stars,
The Distinguished Service Cross  
Nine battle medals
Two individual awards of the
Croix de Guerre,
France's highest military honor.

More Info:
Choctaw Code Talkers Finally Recognized


James Anderson

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 in an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation in Ada, OK. Below is his acceptance speech.

     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 Memorial District.

     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 America.

     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
Otis Leader Ben Carterby Albert Billy, Mitchell Bobb
Victor Brown, George Davenport Joseph Davenport James Edwards
Tobias Frazier Benjamin Hampton Noel Johnson Solomon Louis
Pete Maytubby Jeff Nelson Joseph Oklahoma Robert Taylor
Walter Veach Calvin Wilson

[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. ]

Visit: Choctaw codetalkers association


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