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June 7, 2014

Chickasaw veterans recall angst of Cuban Crisis

Washington, DC — Bob Lawrence remembers exactly where he was during the Cuban Missile Crisis. While many historians agree the world came within minutes of a nuclear holocaust, Lawrence’s firsthand account adds support to those claims.

Lawrence was serving on a U.S. Navy destroyer escort in 1962 when the crew stopped a Russian trawler bound for Cuba. When the commanding officer of the U.S. ship asked permission to board the nuclear transport disguised as a fishing vessel, the captain refused.

That led to an hourslong standoff resolved only when the Russian vessel turned back.

“Had they not stopped and turned around we would have fired on them; there’s no question in my mind,” said Lawrence. “I think that would have started World War III.”

Lawrence, who was an electronics technician in the U.S. Navy, recalled those events during a gathering of 17 veterans who came together to celebrate Memorial Day during a five-day trip to Washington D.C., May 25-29.

These veterans from diverse geographic areas and varied fields of service visited our nation’s capital on a trip sponsored by the Chickasaw Nation. It marked the seventh trip sponsored by the tribe to express appreciation for Chickasaw men and women who served in the armed forces.

What began in 2008 as a way to honor veterans of World War II, the excursion later was expanded to all Chickasaw veterans 60 years of age or older.

"We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to all the men and women who have served our nation in the armed forces,” said Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby. “This trip is one way we honor all those who sacrificed so much to protect our freedom."

Veterans making the trip served in various capacities from electrical engineers and nuclear weapons technicians, to artillery trainers and Navy crewmen. Many served during the Cold War.

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