Tahlequah is known as a “City of Firsts,” and the tradition continues.
John “Wes” Benge was recently elected state commander of the American Legion, a first for Cherokee County.
Benge has a long history of service with the American Legion. He has been vice commander east and has held other district and state offices.
The American Legion is a nonprofit veteran’s service organization made up of wartime veterans.
Members are all volunteers who are continuing their service by aiding their communities.
He said being elected to his new position is very prestigious for Cherokee County.
“It’s a great honor to be state commander,” Benge said. “I love Cherokee County.”
The job of state commander has many duties. Benge will be responsible for conducting all state meetings, is in charge of state officers, and oversees functionns and activities in the Oklahoma American Legion.
One of Benge’s plans as state commander is to set up a past commanders club.
“Many other states have a past commanders club, but Oklahoma doesn’t,” Benge said. “Any past commander can join. We will meet every few months to help with membership throughout the state.”
Benge’s motto as Oklahoma state commander is: “How can we help?”
“We have returning veterans coming home,” said Benge. “They don’t know what to do. We’ve been there, so we want to help them.”
According to Benge, the American Legion has all the information needed for these returning veterans and their families.
On the national level, the American Legion is working for the rights of veterans with brain trauma and also those of female veterans.
“Female veterans have different needs,” he said. “And there are more females returning than ever before.”
Working for these veterans and their rights is is both a local and statewide effort, according to Benge.
Service officers at each post and at the VA Hospitals in Oklahoma City and Muskogee assist veterans with Veterans Administration claims and other needs of the family.
The organization has helped numerous family members of reserve military personnel called to active duty with everyday needs. It also helps with financial assistance for veterans with minor children at home.
Some of the services and programs provided by the American Legion are Boys State, Legion baseball, Scouting sponsorships, flag education and scholarship education.
Benge is a member of Post 135. He said that this year, the local organization sent 13 boys from Keys High School, Sequoyah High School and Tahlequah High School to Boys State.
“If we have the money, we’ll try to send 13 more next year,” Benge said.
Another local program is the Honor Guard, started in 2006 by Benge and Post 135 members.
“When a veteran dies, they are entitled to a military send-off,” said Benge.
The send-off includes a bugler playing “Taps,” and a rifle salute, as well as a folded American flag that’s given to the veteran’s family.
Benge said the American Legion does a lot for wartime veterans. He feels that his personal service to veterans is what they deserve.
“Fly your flags,” said Benge. “Remember your veterans; freedom isn’t free.”
Tahlequah is known as a “City of Firsts,” and the tradition continues.
- Local News
The bear facts
A joint project linking two state agencies with researchers at Oklahoma State University is gathering the “bear facts” on a growing population in the northeastern part of the state.
A six-year study on black bears in Cherokee, Adair and Sequoyah counties is being conducted as a precursor to possible establishment of a controlled hunting season in Green Country. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management of Oklahoma State University have partnered for the endeavor.
Drug task force seizes K2 at a Tahlequah house
The District 27 Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force seized between $200 and $300 worth of synthetic drugs during a bust Friday.
The Tahlequah Police Department and the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service were also in on the raid. Members of the task force hope the seizure will aid in an ongoing investigation to find larger suppliers.
“We received information that sales were being made from a residence off Choctaw Street,” said Michael Moore, task force director. “Further investigation led to a state search warrant based on the federal Schedule I list of drugs.”
Citizens can report sight obstructions to city
On Feb. 25-26, the Tahlequah Fire Department responded to motor vehicle accidents at South Muskogee Avenue and South Street, and since that time, a few citizens have expressed concern about the sight lines at the intersection.
A visit to the intersection showed that, for traffic westbound on South, the view south down Muskogee is partially obstructed by shrubbery and a tree that appear to be on private property.
Spears: OSRC should help boost business
In a little over 25 years, Arrowhead Resort owner Jack Spears has grown his business from being the smallest float operator on the Illinois River to the second-largest, and he’d like to continue on that path.
Spears believes tourism is vital to the Tahlequah area. He says if the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission would eliminate a zoning issue along the river, both the agency and his own business would reap the benefits.
Spears recently asked the OSRC to consider doing away with recreational floating zones. Commercial flotation device licenses are granted to operators in each area for a total of 3,900 licenses.
Last-place swine earns top sale bid
Local businessmen drew regional attention through a record-setting bid of $10,000 at the Cherokee County Spring Livestock Show last Saturday, but now they say they don’t want the recognition.
The annual show, which ends with a premium sale featuring top winners, is a fundraiser for local FFA and 4-H participants. Proceeds help cover the animals’ expenses or are used for future projects or showings. Community members, organizations and businesses bid on the livestock, but it is not a purchase. The children showing get to keep their animals.
Hulbert man involved in standoff didn’t own illegal guns
Further investigation into the Friday standoff between a Hulbert man and law enforcement has not yet produced any weapons charges.
A search warrant executed after the incident uncovered several firearms inside the trailer in which Michael Wyatt Earp, 42, was living. Law enforcement officers and agents were concerned that some weapons were fully automatic.
Police arrest suspect in hit-and-runs
A vandalism complaint to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department led to the arrest of a man by Tahlequah Police Department officers on Sunday.
Gary D. Martin, 30, faces multiple charges after his arrest outside Jimmy’s Egg on South Muskogee Avenue.
County not responsible for U.S. highways
A noticeable difference between conditions on U.S. Highway 62 on either side of the Cherokee-Muskogee county line in the wake of this week’s winter weather has local residents asking why they’re getting the short end of the stick.
The Daily Press has received queries from readers about the procedures followed in Cherokee County to clear roads. Some speculated Cherokee County commissioners may have been slower to respond than their counterparts to the southwest, but the county isn’t responsible for maintaining U.S. highways.
River zones source of contention for some
Thirty years ago, the recreation business on the Illinois River was limited to small, generally mom-and-pop operations that had a few canoes and a pickup truck as inventory.
Today, float operations can generate a healthy income, and operators have hundreds of rafts, canoes and kayaks, as well as trailers and buses to transport boats and people.
The Illinois River is one of three designated scenic streams in the state, and the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission’s mission is to protect the environmental quality of those rivers.
Recently, Jack Spears, owner of one of the largest float operations on the river, asked the OSRC to consider doing away with recreational floating zones. Commercial flotation device licenses are granted to operators in each area for a total of 3,900 licenses.
New e-cigarette ordinance mulled at Tahlequah council meeting
Though no vote was taken, most of Monday’s meeting of the Tahlequah City Council centered on discussion of a new ordinance that would prohibit the use of electronic smoking devices on city property.
A similar ordinance was read at an October meeting of the council, but did not receive a second reading at any subsequent meeting due to general opposition, and concern about the language.
The new Ordinance No. 1216-2014 received its first reading Monday. An ordinance must be read at two meetings before it can go to council vote.
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- The bear facts