Creek Nation Dedicates Prisoner Of War Statue

Tuesday, May 29th 2012, 1:39 pm
By: Craig Day

The Creek Nation dedicated its Prisoner of War statue Tuesday morning outside the tribe's veteran's building in Okmulgee.

The statue is proudly displayed outside the tribe's veteran center in Okmulgee. Among the crowd, are two very distinguished guests: the last surviving tribal members held as POW's.

"They're treasures of the Muscogee Creek Nation and the United States of America," Muscogee Creek Nation Chief George Tiger said.

One of those treasures is 93-year-old Phillip Coon, who joined the military as a young man, was captured and forced on the Bataan Death march.

"A lot of his buddies didn't come home," Michael Coon, Son of POW, said. But he's a survivor,"

Coon credits his faith in God and the faith of others with helping him to survive.

"We ran out of food, ammunition and men, but we didn't run out of prayer," Phillip Coon said.

The other surviving Creek POW is Vernon Wright. He also credits faith with helping him through 20 months of captivity by the Chinese in North Korea after his plane was shot down.

Wright is honored by the ceremony and the statue.

"The way these people love their people, you know, it's something you don't see very often," Wright said.

Eighteen members of the Muscogee Creek Nation were POW's. They're all listed on the memorial.

"He's tough as nails and he survived," Michael Coon said.

Phillip Coon remains humble about his experience, all the attention, and the statue.

"A blessing, I accept it that way," Phillip Coon said. "I don't brag on it. I appreciate what they do."

Three POW's who were members of the Creek Nation died in captivity, one died when a prisoner transport ship sank.

Two others died in captivity in North Korea, which is not cooperating with efforts to identify and bring home the remains of U.S. soldiers.