Cherokee soldier proud of serving country for 30-plus years

03/17/2020 08:30 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Col. James H. Adams (Ret.), formerly of Watts, Oklahoma, served in Kuwait and Iraq as an assistant battalion S2 during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991. COURTESY
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Cherokee Nation citizen Col. James H. Adams, left, served in Bosnia and Herzegovina for six months in 1996 assisting with the United States’ peacekeeping efforts. COURTESY
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Col. James H. Adams in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, during his deployment to the Balkans after the Bosnian War that lasted from April 1992 to February 1996. COURTESY
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During Operation Iraqi Freedom, which lasted from March 2003 to December 2011, Col. James H. Adams, right, was assigned to the Al-Faw Palace, which was a former palace of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and was later used as the headquarters of the Multi-National Force occupying Iraq. COURTESY
TONGANOXIE, Kan. – Cherokee Nation citizen Col. James H. Adams recently retired from the U.S. Army after 30 and-a-half years of service, which included 30 months in combat environments.

Adams, 52, grew up in Watts, Oklahoma, and graduated from Watts High School as valedictorian in 1985. He later graduated from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah in 1989 with a political science degree and was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in military intelligence.

He said after he joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at NSU he decided to stay in the military.

“I hadn’t really made up my mind at that point about what I was going to major in, so that’s how that happened,” he said. “I went over and spoke to them (ROTC), and I enrolled in the program, and then I went to basic camp in 1987 at Fort Knox (Kentucky) and got an Army scholarship. That sealed the deal.”

After attending an officer basic course at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, Adams was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division in Fort Riley, Kansas, where he served as an assistant battalion S2 in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990-91. S2 officers are usually responsible for the administrative, operational and logistical needs of its unit.

He has also deployed and been assigned to Bosnia-Herzogovina for six months; Fort Irwin, California; Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; Fort Gordon, Georgia; the Pentagon; Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom; and Fort Belvoir and Fort Eustis, both in Virginia. He said when he deployed to conflict areas, he felt like he and his unit helped the civilians.

“I think it is an honor and a privilege to serve this country and to wear that uniform and be in the places I’ve seen,” he said. “Most Americans don’t realize when you go into a third-world country or war zone just how it impacts and affects the indigenous population of those countries. What I saw most often was it was the civilians who suffered the most. I found great reward in doing that work in those situations. I felt like we were doing something very productive.”

He graduated from the U.S. War College in Newport, Rhode Island, with a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies. He also completed the Joint Advanced Cyber Warfare Course, Command and General Staff College and the “How the Army Runs Course.”

He has been separated from the Army for only four months, but believes he will eventually miss the “camaraderie and Army family.”

“For 30 years, you’re moving from post to post. I think we moved 18 or 19 times when I was in, but you always knew what to expect when you arrived at your new duty station, it’s familiar. The friends, you make for a lifetime. I think that’s what I’ll miss,” Adams said.

Adams, who is also part Comanche, has twice received the Legion of Merit with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Bronze Star with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Meritorious Service Medal with one Silver Oak Leaf Cluster and one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster. He also earned Airborne and Air Assault badges.

“I’m very proud of my heritage. Traveling around like we have I always look back on it and I cherish fondly being a member of the Cherokee Nation. I grew up in Watts, Oklahoma, so I spent a lot of time down in Chewey,” he said. “Fortunately, I was exposed to the culture a lot. The church we attended down on the Illinois River was attended by a Cherokee audience. As a matter of fact the minister had to say his sermon in English and then come back and say it in Cherokee because a lot of the older members didn’t speak English. I am very proud of that and will be thankful for that for the rest of my life.”

Adams is married to his wife, Barbara, and they have a daughter and son-in-law, Lacie and David Upton and one grandson.


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