Mayetta, KS-May 3-Leroy Mzhickteno, a World War II veteran and Prairie Band Potawatomi member, received the Order of Saint Maurice (Centurion) Medallion by the National Infantry Association today at an award ceremony sponsored by the We-Ta-Se American Legion Post 410 at their headquarters in Mayetta, Kan.
“The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation is extremely proud of Leroy, his World War II service record and this award today. He is a hero and true warrior,” said Tribal Chairperson Tracy Stanhoff, who attended the ceremony.
The Order of Saint Maurice Medallion is awarded to individuals who represented the Infantry Community of the United States Army with honor, valor, and by their actions. Mzhickteno was nominated through the Santa Fe Chapter of the National Infantry Association last year.
Major General (Ret) Jack Strukel, a retired U.S. Major General and himself an Order of St. Maurice (Primicerius) award recipient, presented the award to Mzhickteno. Others bestowing honors on the veteran were Colonel (Ret) Robert A. Dalton, Executive Secretary of the 35th Infantry Division, and Jim Gravenstein, past National Vice Commander of District 1 American Legion. Mzhickteno was a member of Company E 137th Regiment, 35th Infantry Division during World War II in the European Theater of Operations. He was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge for his service as a combat soldier with the 35th Division and also received other medals for his service including the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Dalton presented Mzhickteno with a replica of the Combat Infantry Badge during the presentation today.
Mzhickteno was born on the Potawatomi reservation and attended schools in Mayetta. He joined the National Guard in 1938 and from there was drafted into World War II where he served in the infantry as a rifleman. After serving in the war he returned to Kansas where he worked as a millwright for FMC in Lawrence for 27 years. After retiring he moved back to the Potawatomi reservation where he has lived ever since.
He is also a lifetime member of We-Ta-Se American Legion Post 410, one of the oldest Native American Legion posts in the country that began in 1984. We-Ta-Se which means “one who is brave” in the Potawatomi language presently has 85 members. They are supported by the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation and have an office that is staffed by two veterans who work fulltime to assist tribal veterans. We-Ta-Se also participates in approximately 50 events a year posting colors at parades, pow-wows, and funerals.
The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation is a tribe that originated in the Great Lakes region thousands of years ago. The Prairie Band Potawatomi people were forcibly removed from their ancestral homelands to Kansas around 1846. Today, the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation is a federally recognized sovereign nation with almost 5,000 tribal members.