WE SERVED: Henson sees combat in Afghan territory
Cherokee Nation citizen Weston Henson, left, stands with fellow Marines in front of a vehicle that was hit by an improvised explosive device during combat in Afghanistan. COURTESY
BOISE CITY, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Weston Henson served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2007-12.
During his time in the USMC, Henson was part of two international tours and earned the rank of corporal in the 3rd Battalion Second Marines.
Born Dec. 21, 1987, Henson grew up in Westville, attended Westville Public Schools and graduated in 2006. He initially planned to play college football at Southeastern State University in Durant and obtain a degree in wildlife biology, but his playing career did not pan out.
So he decided his next career choice would be to enlist in the USMC.
After enlisting in March 2007, Henson was sent to San Diego for basic training. After six months, he was sent to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, which also served as his base camp. While at Camp Lejeune, Henson became a small-arms and weapons repair specialist.
“While in the (United) States I was responsible for care of maintenance of all the weapons for our battalion. While deployed, I was a gunner for my platoon and also in charge of the weapons for my company,” he said.
In 2010, Henson was called for duty overseas. His first assignment was a humanitarian tour in Haiti following its 2010 earthquake. Then he was sent to South Africa. His tour also included a training mission in Europe, and when it ended he began a second tour and was sent to Afghanistan to help train Afghan allies and support other Marines during combat.
He said serving in Afghanistan was not easy. Henson said supplies were scarce and a “good night’s sleep” was something he and other Marines “could only hope for.”
Henson lost a good friend in battle and endured battle wounds himself, but found a way to keep going.
During a skirmish with the Afghan enemy, Henson caught shrapnel in his right knee. As the only marine with an injury during that time, his fellow marines dubbed the firefight “The Battle of Wounded Knee.”
Henson also suffered injuries from other combat missions. In one incident, a 60-pound improvised explosive device or IED blew up his transport vehicle. In another incident, his armored vehicle hit a 120-pound IED, which was the biggest-known IED at the time, and he suffered from head trauma. That injury earned him a Purple Heart.
In addition to the Purple Heart, Henson received the Combat Action, Afghan Campaign, Sea Service, Good Conduct, National Defense, Global War on Terrorism, North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Humanitarian medals.
In 2012, as overseas deployments began to slow, Henson decided not to re-enlist but to pursue a college degree. He attended Missouri State University in Springfield and received a degree in natural resources. He now works as a soil conservationist for the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“The best part of being a marine is the pride we take in ourselves from our fighting abilities to how we carry ourselves, and also the brotherhood you form with the men you fight beside,” he said. “To me, being a Cherokee veteran is showing the pride, ethic and spirit of our people to not only the people we know but also to all of the people in the world where we may travel or fight and to honor those who came before. To me, serving isn’t about self but selflessness, to put others before yourself and hope that if you do so they may never have to go through what you have.”