Cherokee Nation Opens New Veterans Service Center
The Cherokee Nation is celebrating its 62nd National Holiday in Tahlequah this weekend and remembering the journey along the Trail of Tears that happened 175 years ago.
Along with the celebration and reflection, the tribe is honoring its veterans with a new center they can call their own.
The Cherokee Warrior Memorial has been standing on the government complex for 15 years, but as veterans' services became a demand they built a new facility, the Veterans Service Center, that's just a couple yards away and it opened its doors this weekend.
Korean War Veteran John Swimmer got a chance to see the new display cases honoring those Cherokees who served our country in the military.
"I think it's nice, very nice," Swimmer said.
Every branch is represented in the hall, but the building is more than a museum.
"It's very good to have a place for the veterans for their benefit and some place to go for help when they need it," said Cherokee Air Force Veteran, Taylor Whitmire.
The Veterans Service Center is the home base for the thousands of veterans who are Cherokee citizens.
Doctor Ricky Robinson said the new facility will make it easier for veterans needing help readjusting to life back in the states, especially those needing counseling.
"Sometimes they were reluctant because they would have to go through a large complex to get to a couple little offices, where here it's a smaller facility; they're able to feel more secure," Robinson said.
Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran Steven Belt is proud he served his country, not only as an American, but as a Cherokee.
"The fact that you have this desire to protect the country as well as this feeling of tradition being a Native American and a Cherokee just adds to it," Belt said.
Belt attended the building's groundbreaking ceremony and is happy to see the progress. He said it's now up to his generation of soldiers to take the torch and help returning veterans.
"We have a lot of veterans coming back from Operation Iraqi Freedom--Afghanistan Enduring Freedom, now we have the responsibility to continue our voice and especially continue our voice for the Cherokee Nation," said Belt.
The $2 million service center was funded entirely by the tribe.