A Gokey Hero to be Honored

Hi All,
My maiden name is Gokey.  My father, Adam Gokey, Jr. was a Sac and Fox Indian.  He grew up in Tecumseh, Oklahoma.  His oldest half-brother, Johnny “Bear” Gokey was killed in action in World War II.  On July 11 at the Sac and Fox pow wow on the reservation in Stroud, Oklahoma he will be honored for his service to our country.  You can read more about American Indians (and find Johnny’s name) in World War II at this website:  http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/indians.htm  

In preparation for this event my cousin Tawanna wrote a biography of Johnny’s life.  Although I never met my Uncle, I am proud of him.  I was especially moved to read mention of my Dad, known by the family as “Junior”, in the biography.  My Dad spent a good time of his childhood sick with a form of bone cancer.  It was touching to read about how Johnny would carry my Dad on his shoulders.

I don’t have a single picture of Johnny Gokey or I would post it here.  In any case you can read more about his life right here.

Dana Gokey Stanton


Johnny Francis Gokey

Johnny “Bear” Gokey was born February28, 1924, being the oldest son of Adam Gokey. He had the misfortune of losing his mother while he was yet an infant. Trying to recover from the Great Depression, his father could not work and also care for a newborn. Therefore, Johnny was taken into the home of his paternal grandfather and grandmother, Leo and Lizzie Gokey, to be raised.

His father remarried and by the time Bear was 18 months old, he had acquired a little sister, Emma, but he remained in his grandparent’s care. He was to be blessed with many other brothers and sisters.  He would go to his father’s home and visit the other siblings and stay with them for a few days but he would always return to his grandparent’s home. On his many visits, he always wanted Emma to bake him a cake. She was always faithful to do so. He would take a large square of cake and heap beans on it and, although it was unusual, he always appeared to greatly enjoy it.

His sister, Helen, remembered a quiet young man who was always entertaining his brothers with silly jokes. On his visits he would carry his little brother, Junior, around on his shoulders. Junior was sickly as a child so he received special attention from his oldest brother. Bear was a very special brother to them all but then there were the stories of the older brothers.

Remembering that boys will be boys, Bear showed the others how to pull down a limb on an elm tree. Then while they held it tight, he would perch on it like a rooster. At his word, they would let it go and he would fly through the air, according to his brother, Frank. This was an enjoyed activity that produced many cuts, bruises, and even a few broken bones for them in the years that followed. Bear, the brothers, and their cousins would also go fishing down at Deep Fork River –noodling, of course; that was the preferred method for Indian braves, as we all know.

Don’t get the impression that all they did was play, though. They also had to do their chores. Water had to be carried a good distance to the house. They worked together toting that heavy load but Bear made the job easier by showing them how to dance as they walked. He was full of energy. He, along with the other brothers, sisters, and cousins, would participate in the Snake Dance at pow wows. Since he was the tallest, he was always at the front of the line. And at night, he liked to tell them ghost stories which they all enjoyed. While he participated in some tribal traditions, he was also a member of the Baptist church.

As these good times were happening, growing up around his family and tribal members, there was a war raging in Europe and soon the United States would be involved in a struggle for freedom. Taking advantage of the attention in Europe, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Bear came of age shortly after the advent of these events and he was called into the Army. At his departure at the railroad station, his very young little sister, Louise, remembered his tears as he told their father that he would come back, but it would be in a box. Their father told him not
to say such things but somehow Bear may have known. His words have never been forgotten and it was the last time she saw him.

American Indians were known to be exceptional scouts and hardened warriors to military leaders. The Indian warriors became an invaluable asset to the military. Bear was no exception.  He entered the army on February 23, 1943. After basic training, he was sent to the Philippines.  Three years prior to his arrival there, the atrocity of the Bataan death march loomed treacherously in America’s eyes. But General MacArthur promised he would return. Return he did and Bear was a part of his army serving in the 38th Battalion, Company E of the 151st Infantry.

To effectively defend the United States and stop the Japanese advancement, it was essential that the Philippines had to be liberated from Japan. The taking of the Philippines was a hard fought battle with many lives lost. Bear participated in the Luzon battle as a scout. The Japanese soldiers were entombed in a tunnel with machine gun nests in caves round-about the island. The decisions of the officers demanded the bravery of the soldiers. Bear obviously had very innate abilities and keen senses to have served as a scout which was a most dangerous job. They fought in jungles, mountainous regions, and situations that were unbearable. They were cut off from supplies of ammunition, food, and water for days. He courageously endured many weeks in and out of gun fire and hand-to-hand combat in Japanese Banzai attacks but on April 24, 1945, while in action at Mt. Natib, Calaguiman, Bataan, Luzon, P.I., machine gun fire from an unknown source brought him down. His captain wrote a letter to Bear’s grandparents and advised them of this grievous event but went on to say that he was a quiet and well-liked man by his fellow soldiers.

Private First Class Johnny F. Gokey was awarded the Asiatic-Pacific ribbon with one campaign star and Philippines Liberation ribbon with one battle star. Posthumously, he was awarded the Order of the Purple Heart, the coveted Combat Infantry Badge, and the Philippine Liberation Medal.

Johnny “Bear” Gokey is not only a hero to his family but also of the Sac & Fox Nation and the United States of America for his undaunting courage and dedication to freedom. His name will be honored in our family as the hero that he is and he shall be known to each of our generations.  Sixty-four years later, another honor was to be bestowed to him collective with his fellow soldiers. On May 21, 2009, U.S. Representative Martin Heinrich introduced legislation bestowing a collective Congressional Gold Medal to the American soldiers involved in the World War II battles of Bataan, Corregidor and Luzon.  “We must honor and recognize our heroic veterans who bravely defended our country at Bataan, Corregidor and Luzon,” said Rep. Heinrich. “The American soldiers of the Bataan Death March endured extraordinary suffering on behalf of our country—this legislation recognizes their sacrifices and honors their spirit, tenacity, and service.”  This legislation would honor the heroes of Bataan, Corregidor and Luzon with a collective Congressional Gold Medal which will be housed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Published in: on June 22, 2009 at 10:27 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this story, Dana! What bravery and courage these soldiers must have had to go to these far-off lands and fight. They are always to be remembered. I’m sure that your family will enjoy the ceremony in Oklahoma.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this story, Dana! What bravery and courage these soldiers must have had to go to these far-off lands and fight. They are always to be remembered. I’m sure that your family will enjoy the ceremony in Oklahoma.

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