Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

September 9, 2011

A warm welcome

A Cherokee County airman returned home Wednesday after spending more than six months in Afghanistan.

TAHLEQUAH — After spending seven months in an area known as the Horn of Panjwaii, west of Kandahar in Afghanistan, Airman Mark Stafford was welcomed home Wednesday night by family and friends.

Stafford, an explosive ordinance disposal technician in the U.S. Air Force, is back home in Cherokee County for three weeks. Then, he’ll return to McChord Air Force Base in Washington, where he may carry out various missions while in the U.S., and await his next appointment, which should be at least six months away.

“I’m hoping for the minimum six months. I’m ready to go,” said Stafford. “We have a really cool mission. It actually makes a difference, and it’s so much fun. There’s nothing like that adrenaline rush.”

His parents, Lynne and Reggie Arterberry, and his sisters, Becky Welch and Laura Pittser, were part of the welcome-home festivities this week, which began at an airport in Tulsa and picked up with a surprise gathering back home in Welling.

Family and friends were anxious to see Stafford, and Stafford said he’s happy to be back home to relax for a few weeks.

“They had no access to phones – they had a satellite phone, but it was limited use and not reliable,” said his mom, Lynne. “So he would call me occasionally, and that was the only contact we had. They’d spend three, four days on a mission, and we wouldn’t know [what was happening]. A piece of my heart has been in Afghanistan.”

During his first tour in Afghanistan, Stafford was stationed with several different infantry groups. Most of the time, his team was focused on its main mission of disarming bombs, frequently referred to as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

“And we got in a handful of firefights,” said Stafford.

During the last firefight, the leader of Stafford’s three-man team was injured, and the troops had to leave the region quickly. Lynne said that was hard on Stafford because of the relationships he’d made with the people of Afghanistan.

“He really likes the people there and feels good about what he’s doing, and when they had to leave quickly, he didn’t get to say good-bye, which was hard,” said Lynne.

Stafford said he and the other two men in his EOD team are like family, though they didn’t know each other prior to their mission. He expects they’ll be friends for a lifetime.

A 2003 Tahlequah High School graduate, Stafford went on to major in sociology at the University of Oklahoma. After graduating there, he realized he wanted to go into the Air Force.

His mother said the decision was a bit surprising on one hand, but Stafford has grandparents, uncles and cousins who have served in the military, so in a way, her son’s choice made sense.

“He did a test, and they said EOD is where he needs to be, it’s his talent,” said Lynne. “That was scary, but Mark assured me it would be OK, and I have faith in God.”

Stafford expects to continue his service in the military, or perhaps to eventually work in the same field in the private sector, as a contractor.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • sr-NSU-Earth-day.jpg NSU students observe Earth Day

    Students and members of the community converged on Northeastern State University’s Second Century Square on Tuesday to spend an afternoon celebrating Earth Day.
    The event featured tables sponsored by campus organizations, prizes and music by Chris Espinoza. NSU’s Earth Day theme was “Gather Here. Go Green,” and was organized by the Committee for Sustainability and the Northeastern Student Government Association (NSGA).

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • ts-smallholders-courtesy.jpg Rural smallholders host annual show

    More and more, many people are showing growing interest in learning the sources of their food, including meat. As such, interest in farm-to-table living is increasing.
    Saturday, the Rural Smallholders Association held its annual spring show at the Cherokee County Fairgrounds, promoting the farming of sheep and goats, along with giving the general public a sample of their products.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • pitts-hurley.jpg Wanted man nabbed during traffic stop

    Cherokee County sheriff’s deputies arrested a wanted man this week after a traffic stop near South Muskogee and Willis Road.
    Hurley D. Pitts, 40, was being sought by authorities on a motion to revoke a previous sentence.
    Sheriff’s Deputy Jarrick Snyder said he stopped a car after it ran off the road a couple of times. A woman was behind the wheel, and Pitts was sitting in the passenger seat.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • SR-Wikafile.jpg Communiversity Band performs Sunday

    Musicians from on and off the Northeastern State University campus have made their final preparations for an upcoming performance of the NSU Communiversity Band.
    The ensemble performs Sunday, April 27, at 7 p.m., in the NSU Center for the Performing Arts. The conductor is Dr. Norman Wika, associate professor of music and band program director. Guest conductor is student Kameron Parmain. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors.
    “Everything has come together very well this semester,” Wika said.
    “We have about 40 musicians, and everyone who started the rehearsals has stuck with it. This could be the best Community Band concert yet.”

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Council concerned over reports of land contamination

    Negotiations involving the purchase of nearly 20 homes on 7 acres of land near Basin Avenue hit a snag Monday night when concerns surfaced over potential contamination of the area.
    Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols had proposed the city purchase the homes and duplexes as a large step in a greenbelt project, which would establish a solid park and trail system from the downtown area to the site of the city’s old solid waste transfer station.
    Until Monday, details of the negotiations had been mostly discussed behind closed doors, though Nichols confirmed the list price for the property to be $480,000.

    April 23, 2014

  • Council tables cell tower permit apps

    Tahlequah city councilors on Monday opted to hold off on approval of two special-use permit applications that would help AT&T install a couple of 150-foot cell towers within the city.
    Branch Communications is asking for the permits as it attempts to construct two monopole cell towers – one on Commercial Road near Green Country Funeral Home, and another at the Tahlequah Public Schools bus barn on Pendleton Street. Other towers are being built outside of the city limits.
    Members of the city’s planning and zoning board gave their OK for both permits last month.

    April 23, 2014

  • SR-WalkaMile1.jpg Walk a Mile 2014

    Men squeezed into feminine footwear Saturday by the hundreds to walk in solidarity with women on the issue of sexual violence – and their clop-clop-clopping echoed down Muskogee Avenue.
    The fourth annual “Walk a Mile In Her Shoes” brought men to Norris Park, accompanied by their enthusiastic female supporters, to walk – and often wobble – in high heels over a mile-long course to raise funds for Help-In-Crisis.
    “It hurts every year,” said John Christie, a Sequoyah High School student participating in his third Walk a Mile. “I get home, sit down, blisters come up and the calves hurt. But it is worth it. It’s for a good cause.”

    April 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • adams-christopher.jpg Michigan man gets 13 years on plea to rape, sodomy of girl

    A 28-year-old Michigan man will spend about 13 years in an Oklahoma state prison after pleading guilty to four counts of first-degree rape and one count of sodomy involving a 13-year-old girl.
    Christopher Dale Adams, of Lake Orion, Mich., received a 13-year prison sentence for each of the five charges, to be followed by seven years suspended. All sentences will run concurrently.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • logan-amy.jpg Police take down pair on pot distribution charge

    Tahlequah police officers arrested a pair Sunday night for allegedly possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute it.
    Tahlequah Officer Cody Warren said police were asked to investigate when 35-year-old Amy N. Logan, of Tahlequah, allegedly took a family member’s car without permission.
    While Warren was speaking with the owners of the vehicle, Logan arrived along with 26-year-old Theoplilus James Mollie, of Tulsa.

    April 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • land-lisa.jpg Two nailed with meth, pot hidden in bag of chips

    Two people were arrested early Monday morning when Tahlequah police stopped a vehicle near Basin Avenue and found methamphetamine and marijuana hidden in a bag of chips.
    Tahlequah Officer Cory Keele said he noticed a Nissan heading north on Park Hill Road, and the vehicle later stopped in an intersection.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

How confident are you that the immunizations for infants and children are reasonably safe?

Not at all confident.
Somewhat confident.
Relatively confident.
Extremely confident.
undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Stocks