Edwards of Tussy, Oklahoma, sums up the brotherhood of soldiers
in one sentence: "Being close to them made me feel safer."
Mr. Edwards is September"s featured veteran in the 2017 Chickasaw
Born on the family farm in Tussy, Okla., Leon Edwards came from
a large, loving family. A U.S. Army draftee serving during the Korean
War, he learned the connections needed to form family bonds come
from more than just blood.
Mr. Edwards, who had six brothers and sisters, formed a special
relationship with his father that would outline his life. When his
mother passed away he was just seven years old, Mr. Edwards and
his siblings took on the responsibility of caring for their father.
The obligations to his family and the farm became heavy enough that
he received a draft deferment during World War II.
"My father was the best," Mr. Edwards said. "I tried to cook
for him - biscuits, macaroni and cheese, ham, steak - things he
liked. I never thought about caring for daddy. I knew I had to do
it. I enjoyed it. I had three brothers in the war, but I received
a farm deferment because I had to take care of daddy. It was after
daddy passed away that I was drafted."
Like many who have served in the armed forces, Mr. Edwards responded
to his nation's call to be a soldier.
"I really hated to leave home," he said. "I was lonely for a
long time, but I made friends. The two years went by pretty fast."
Living conditions were harsh in Korea. Mr. Edwards was stationed
along the border between North and South Korea. Korea's Demilitarized
Zone continues to be one of the most disputed and dangerous places
on Earth. It is filled with razor wire and is heavily mined. The
terrain is mountainous and the climate includes bitterly cold winters
and short, hot summers. Mr. Edwards endured these seasons in cramped
canvas tents with other soldiers.
Arriving immediately following the cessation of hostilities,
he spent the majority of his time guarding buildings, checkpoints
and performing other mundane tasks to which all soldiers become
accustomed. He found his calling while serving in the Army when
he volunteered to train as a cook. His fellow soldiers, and his
superiors, enjoyed the recipes he had perfected when he cared for
"I made biscuits just like I did for daddy," Mr. Edwards said.
"The guys loved them. I was more satisfied being a cook than standing
around pulling guard duty or cleaning trucks."
The comradery among Mr. Edwards and his fellow soldiers produced
lifelong friendships. He continues to cherish a photograph of Sergeant
Peters, a man who looked after him while he was in the service.
Mr. Edwards stayed in contact with many other men from his unit.
"Being close to them made me safer," he said. "I made lifelong
friends, including one man named Roberts. We sent Christmas cards
to each other every year until he passed away year before last.
Another friend from Illinois came to Texas when he married. He came
by to see me on that trip."
Chickasaw Warrior Society is an organization that encourages
community and personifies the Chickasaw Warrior spirit. Chickasaw
veterans and active military share a common bond through their
experiences. The Chickasaw Warrior Society aims to foster
the relationships of our servicemen and woman. All Chickasaw
warriors are encouraged to join so that we may honor your
Mr. Edwards always knew he wanted to work the earth just as generations
of his family had done. He was taught the economics of agriculture
early in life by his grandfather. Receiving his first heifer from
him as a boy, he raised the cow and sold it to buy his first bicycle.
Mr. Edwards continued to make his livelihood on the same fields
and pastures as his father and grandfather.
Like many soldiers, he left a girlfriend at home during his
military service. The two years away from her were difficult, he
said. The couple married when he returned home, and raised three
children. They've been together nearly 60 years.
Mr. Edwards attends the Chickasaw veterans' conferences. He
is proud of his service and enjoys being around other Chickasaws
who have served as well.
"The veterans' conference makes me proud to be Chickasaw," he
said. "We (Chickasaws) did what we could for our country. We are
American free. I would serve again if I had the opportunity."