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'It was a good honor'

Comanche tribal member, Vietnam veteran inducted into Ancient Order of Saint Barbara

A Comanche warrior who has earned the Silver Star for bravery in combat has been recognized by Saint Barbara  the patron saint of the artilleryman.

George Red Elk was inducted into the Ancient Order of Saint Barbara Military Honor Society at a ceremony Saturday during the 45th Field Artillery Brigade Dining-out at the Embassy Suites in Oklahoma City. The honoree didn't know what to expect. He said he left feeling humbled and more blessed than ever. 

"To be truthful, I didn't really know anything about that award," Red Elk said. "It kind of blew my mind."

Sgt. Maj. William Blasingame nominated Red Elk for the award without telling him. A week before the event, Red Elk said he wasn't going. That's when he was told he was being honored and had to go. A lot of people knew of the renowned Comanche warrior and wanted to meet him. He's the son of Comanche Code Talker Roderick Red Elk, and both are members of the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame. 

"It was a good honor," Red Elk said. "After everything was said and done, when I got home and thought about it, it was set up kinda like the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame. It means a lot."

The Honorable and Ancient Order of Saint Barbara is a military honor society for both the Army and Marine Corps Artillery, including Field Artillery and Air Defense Artillery, said Lanny Asepermy, former historian for the Comanche Indian Veterans Association (CIVA). It is awarded through the Field Artillery and Air Defense Artillery associations. The award is named for Saint Barbara, the patron saint of artillerymen. 

"The Ancient Order is reserved for those members of the artillery community who have achieved long-term exceptional service to the artillery surpassing even their brethren in the Honorable Order of Saint Barbara," Asepermy said. 

Saint Barbara, the daughter of a wealthy aristocrat, was tortured and executed after her father discovered she had converted to Christianity, Asepermy said. According to legend, her father executed her and, in divine retribution, he was then struck down by a lightning bolt. She became the patron saint in time of danger from thunderstorms, fires and sudden death. 

"She became the patron saint of artillerymen from early on in the development of artillery pieces, as early cannons were unreliable, and at times would explode wounding and killing their crews," Asepermy said. "Saint Barbara was invoked by these early cannoneers in the hope she would protect them from this fate."

The patron saint may have truly intervened for Red Elk during his service in Vietnam. She rewarded him duly  in both his survival and honors that followed.

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