By Travis Sloat
OKTAHA – Saturday afternoon was very special to Lanny Cartwright.
“We finally have an American Legion post in Oktaha,” said Cartwright, the commander of the new American Legion Post 403. “This will hopefully draw some veterans here who can’t make it out to Muskogee. We really felt like this was a great place for it.”
The post has been dedicated to and named for Spc. Joshua M. Seals, who died from non-combative injuries while serving in Afghanistan as a member of the Oklahoma National Guard.
Members of Seals’ company were present Saturday, filling a section of seats and honoring their fallen comrade.
John “Wes” Benge, the state commander of the American Legion, said the dedicated post would always honor Seals and his family.
“It’s uplifting to honor someone in this way,” Benge said. “Most of our posts are named after fallen soldiers. It also honors everyone else who didn’t come home. Also, people don’t always remember the families of those lost. They are here, and they carry on. I wish we had more of these ceremonies for them.”
Seven officers were installed in the post on Saturday, with the ceremony led by Tim Smith, the commander of American Legion Post 20 in Fort Gibson.
• Lanny Cartwright, commander.
• Jim Stout, first vice commander.
• Sue Denton, second vice commander.
• Randy Younger, sergeant-at-arms.
• Bill Kirby, finance officer.
• Becky Alexander, adjutant.
• Leonard Stevens, chaplain.
Following the installation, Cartwright took the stage and began the dedication ceremony. He then presented the Seals family with a commemorative gift to remember the event. After the presentation, Sen. Earl Garrison presented a citation to the family from the Oklahoma State Senate, and a citation from the Oklahoma House of Representatives was also awarded.
Becky Alexander said deciding whom to name the post after was the hardest part.
“We’ve been working on this project since last November,” Alexander said. “There has been a lot of preparation. It goes to show that a few people can do a lot of work. It also shows the support of our community. People here are very supportive of our veterans.”
Garrison said the state Senate was honored to be present on Saturday.
“He’s one of our heroes,” he said, referring to Seals.