April 9, 2013
The Associated Press
The widows of two Oklahoma soldiers killed in Afghanistan were presented Tuesday with the Legislature's inaugural Gold Star Medal during a state Capitol ceremony honoring the Oklahoma National Guard's 45th Infantry Division.
Jane Horton of Owasso and Megan Ewy of Edmond both received the Gold Star Medal, an award created by the Legislature last year to honor Oklahoma military members killed in combat.
Horton received the honor on behalf of her late husband, Army Spc. Christopher Horton, who was killed in September 2011 in Afghanistan when his unit was attacked by small-arms fire. Ewy's husband, Army 2nd Lt. Jered Ewy, died in July 2011 while conducting a dismounted parole in Janak Kheyl, Afghanistan.
The two were among 19 Oklahoma National Guardsmen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said Maj. Gen. Myles Deering, Oklahoma's adjutant general.
"Many more have been injured in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan," Deering said. "For every soldier lost in combat, dozens more are seriously injured."
Among those injured was Army Pfc. Jeffrey Kerchee of Harrah, who was presented with a Purple Heart by Deering and Gov. Mary Fallin. Kerchee was injured when an improvised explosive device detonated near him while he was deployed with the Oklahoma National Guard's 1345th Transportation Company in February 2007.
"It was something else. It was really overwhelming," Kerchee said after having the Purple Heart pinned to his shirt. "I didn't know what to expect, and I was pretty nervous.
"I love this country," he said, with his wife and young twin sons looking on. "I was happy to have served, and I appreciate what they did for me today."
The 45th Infantry Division was created shortly after World War I and was among the first divisions activated in World War II. It was also the first National Guard division to enter combat in Korea in 1951. The division was deactivated in 1968 and replaced with three brigade-sized elements that make up the Oklahoma National Guard: the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the 45th Fires Brigade and the 90th Troop Command.
A total of 2,200 members of the 45th Infantry Brigade were deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 and another 800 to Kuwait in the largest deployment of the Oklahoma National Guard since the Korean War.
Fallin also praised the Oklahoma National Guard for its service to the state during times of blizzards, wildfires, ice storms, tornadoes and other natural disasters.
"There are times when our citizens need our National Guard, and they've always stepped up to the call," Fallin said. "I don't think there's ever a way to repay them for the sacrifices they've made."