By CHRISTY WHEELAND

The town of Okay is a community proud of its rich military heritage. For generations, its sons and daughters have proudly served in the U.S. Armed Forces to secure the freedoms Americans enjoy today.

Many of those brave heroes have suffered injuries or even death as a result of their sacrifices to their country. In doing so, they received the Purple Heart, the oldest military award still given to U.S. Military members.

As America commemorates National Purple Heart Day on Wednesday, Aug. 7, Okay is proud to have new signage on their Veterans Memorial grounds declaring the community as an official Purple Heart City.

The reflective sign was designed by Jason Craft and provided by the Murphy family who owns Direct Traffic Control in Muskogee.

“This is something very special to be proud of!” exclaimed Johnny Walker, chairman of the Okay Preservation Committee whose father, J.P. Walker, is a Purple Heart recipient. “With this sign, we say for those of you who were wounded, this is your city.

“If you don’t think this town is appreciative of its veterans, or if the sign and memorial do not make you feel more patriotic when you come through Okay, then something is wrong,” he added.

J.P. Walker is one of 11 known Purple Heart recipients from Okay. Others include Ronnie Walker, Leroy Walker, Lloyd Jay Cox, Robert A. Estep, William Weeden, Bobby Dean Carrell, Dale Kunkleman, Ernie Lee Baker, David Lee Russell and David Russell Sr.

Johnny Walker said there are sure to be more whom have not yet been identified.

Purple Heart designations have also come about for the Cherokee Nation, according to Mitch Reed, senior vice commander with the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs.

“It was my honor to take part in Okay’s Centennial Celebration proclaiming Okay as a Purple Heart City,” said Mitch Reed, senior vice commander with the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs. “As a result, the Cherokee Delegation including Chief Bill John Baker was so moved that Okay honored their veterans in such a way that they have now become a Purple Heart Nation.”

In addition, Governor Kevin Stitt proclaimed Oklahoma as a Purple Heart State with a signing ceremony at the State Capitol on July 30. The state designation will officially go into effect on November 1.

“I am so very proud that our town of Okay, the Cherokee Nation and the State of Oklahoma are honoring our wounded heroes!” Walker exclaimed. “This went bigger and better than I had ever dreamed, to see this honor carry on for the Cherokee Nation. I hope Wagoner will be next as they have a great veteran history!”

Christy has been covering news and sports in Wagoner County since 1988. She is a graduate of Oklahoma State University with a degree in Public Relations/Journalism.