Set aside time this November to recognize the contributions of American veterans; Oklahoma provides opportunities to remember them now and year-round. Plan now to pay your respects at these special places.
Oklahoma City’s Oklahoma Veteran’s Memorial has as its centerpiece “The Big Guy,” a larger-than-life bronze representation of a Native American soldier in Vietnam-era combat attire. Behind him, sculpted panels depict scenes from both World Wars and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. On the backs of these panels are the names of those veterans killed in action during each war. An eternal flame burns as the flags of each military branch, the Oklahoma flag and the American flag fly overhead. It all combines as a poignant reminder of the service and sacrifices made by our armed forces throughout history. For directions and additional information, visit www.oklahomaveteransmemorial.us.
In Norman, the Cleveland County Veterans Memorial recognizes local servicemen and women who have served in every branch of the military. The memorial’s location in Reaves Park is fitting, as it was the site of a WWII naval training center that was de-commissioned in 1959. Today, a granite plaza sits on the park’s southwest corner; at its heart, a bronze sculpture with the names of those killed in action engraved on a granite base. Other veterans’ names are inscribed on a wall surrounding the plaza. Submit veteran names and get more information at www.ci.norman.ok.us/parks/veterans-memorial.
One unique military tribute found in Oklahoma is the USS Batfish, at Muskogee’s War Memorial Park and Military Museum. Here, you can marvel at the 1943 WWII submarine that earned nine battle stars during its tenure—and be moved by the sheer number of submarine casualties amassed during that conflict memorialized on bronze markers in the park. The adjacent museum has an extensive collection of artifacts, photography, battle flags and more. The park and museum are open year-round. Get details at www.ussbatfish.com.
At Honey Springs Battlefield
in Checotah, you can learn about the 1863 site of the largest Civil War conflict in Indian Territory where Cherokee and Creek Indians fought for both the Confederate and Union armies. As many as 9,000 men were involved in the battle including the Union’s first African-American troops, the 1st
Kansas Colored Volunteers. On 1,100 acres, six trails with interpretive markers tell the battle story as you walk the site. About an hour’s drive away, Atoka’s Confederate Memorial Museum
displays a unique collection ranging from Choctaw relics to Civil War weaponry and military artifacts from World War I through the Vietnam War. Outside, there’s a Confederate cemetery, the burial place of a number of soldiers who died during an 1862 measles outbreak as they were in transit from Ft. Smith to Ft. McCulloch. Learn about these and other historic Oklahoma military sites at www.okhistory.org.
As the year comes to an end, take time to reflect on the service of our nation’s military men and women. Oklahoma’s long and proud military heritage is honored at sites statewide.