TAHLEQUAH — The Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma Air National Guard broke ground Monday at the future site of 21 new homes for eligible Cherokee veterans and their families.
The project is part of the Cherokee Veterans Housing Initiative through the U.S. Department of Defense Innovative Readiness Training program. Plans for the new Mige Glory Addition include a total of 21 new homes over the next three years, with the first seven new single-family subsidized homes to be built in the first year along with the necessary infrastructure to support the housing addition.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said it was exciting to be at the groundbreaking ceremony Monday surrounded by construction equipment and pipes already in the ground. It is expected that housing pads and framing will be visible in the coming months.
“We know that the need for improving housing in Northeastern Oklahoma is great and that the need for our Cherokee population is even greater,” Chief Hoskin said. “We should do everything we can to serve our Cherokee veterans, because they have served us and this great Nation. That’s where this housing project comes into play. It could be that our veterans are currently living in housing that just doesn’t meet their needs and these homes will better meet that need. We also know there are jarring statistics on veteran homelessness, and that is why we focused on this project over the past few years. Disproportionally, Native veterans are among the homeless veteran population and the more we can do in the area of housing, whether it’s emergency rental assistance or this type of long-term housing solution, the better, and we should keep focusing on solutions for this problem. Partnering with these military units, we have the tools and talent to make a big difference.”
The Oklahoma Air National Guard, the Army National Guard, the Navy Reserve and the Air Force Reserve Command will provide personnel to construct the new homes as part of the Innovative Readiness Training program. The IRT program provides hands-on, real-world training during the construction process, allowing joint military units an opportunity to improve their deployment readiness.
Master Sgt. Mitchell Sisco, operations manager for the IRT program and a Cherokee Nation citizen from Tahlequah, has worked with the Cherokee Nation to kick off the project. Sisco said he approached the Cherokee Nation about establishing a veterans housing addition through the IRT program after completion of a similar project in Montana in 2016.
“This is a wonderful example of how the military and civilians can work together to help out for a good cause,” Sisco said. “The Innovative Readiness Training program has multiple missions: we have construction, medical, cyber, and all kinds of missions where we can go out into the civilian world and leverage our military training requirements with our community partners’ requirements to get tangible benefits for them. We have many other construction, medical, and cyber missions throughout the U.S. and its territories.”
The Cherokee Nation provided the 30 acres for the project, and the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation will provide materials and other basic services for construction of the new homes. The Housing Authority will manage the property and in the future, will open the application process to Cherokee veterans. The Cherokee Nation Office of Veterans Affairs and Cherokee Nation Emergency Management department are also providing support for the project.
The new housing addition will be named in honor of the late Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Mige Glory, who served in the U.S. Army after being drafted at the age of 18. Glory served as a clerk for the 122nd Evacuation Hospital in Fort Sam Houston, Texas.