Tahlequah Daily Press

April 7, 2014

Cherokee Nation Veterans Center opens


Staff

TAHLEQUAH — The $2 million Cherokee Nation Veterans Center is now open for military veterans to visit or seek guidance from the tribe’s office of Veteran Affairs.

“We should all take pride in our Veterans Center at the Cherokee Nation tribal complex. It is a place that forever honors our brave men and women for the sacrifices they made to defend our freedoms and protect our great country,” said Cherokee Nation Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, a U.S. Navy veteran who served in Vietnam. “On behalf of the Cherokee Nation, we are eternally grateful to all those who served, and that is why we have created a place of respect and reverence for our military veterans, so they know they always have a home at the Cherokee Nation.”

The new 8,700-square-foot center, complete with a community room, library, kitchen and sunroom, was completely funded by the Cherokee Nation. It is located just east of the W.W. Keeler Complex. Its hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The center has three full-time tribal employees on staff to assist veterans with benefits and tribal programs. A Veterans Affairs readjustment counselor is also onsite part time.

“A lot of veterans just want to come in and talk about something, maybe experiences they’ve had. Some of them just need to come in and get it off their chest,” said Dr. Ricky Robinson, Cherokee Nation Veterans Center manager. “They can do that here. If it’s something serious enough, we will help them get an appointment with a licensed counselor in the tribe or through Veterans Affairs.”

The facility is set up to provide veterans with an increased level of comfort and includes private offices.

Sam Triplett, an 83-year-old Korean War Marine Corps veteran from Tahlequah, said he appreciates the Cherokee Nation’s efforts to recognize military veterans. He plans to use the Veterans Center.

“I think it’s great to have a place where you can meet with other veterans who know what you’ve been through and have access to Cherokee Nation services in one place,” Triplett said. “At my age and with my health, I sometimes need help, and the Cherokee Nation has really taken care of me over the years.”

The center’s large community room will be used for various events throughout the year, including the Cherokee National Holiday’s veterans’ reception and Veterans Day activities.

Memorabilia from Cherokee veterans of all military branches will be displayed inside the center. To donate memorabilia to be displayed, contact Gina Olaya at (918) 384-7863 or gina.olaya@cn-bus.com.

The Cherokee Nation estimates there are more than 4,000 Cherokee veterans. For more information on the Veterans Center, call (918) 453-5000 ext. 6147 or ext. 5695.