Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

July 16, 2012

Benge named Legion state commander

TAHLEQUAH — 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.”

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