Thank God for our military veterans

Sen. Bill Coleman

Last week, our nation gathered to celebrate those men and women who make our freedoms, and those of others around the world, possible. These American patriots and their families’ service and sacrifice should be honored and celebrated not just during this special holiday, but year-round. Thank you for all you do for our state and nation.

Wednesday, Nov. 10 was also the U.S. Marine Corps’ 246th birthday; and I had the opportunity to meet one of our heroes, Anthony Marquez, at a special celebration in Skiatook hosted by Adam Green, a fellow Marine and owner of Mac’s Barbeque. Anthony served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2007-2012. During his last deployment in Sangin, Afghanistan in 2011, his unit, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, suffered incredible losses, with more than 160 members wounded and another 17 killed on the battlefield.

In 2016, Marquez wanted to somehow honor his comrades and poured his heartache into his craft, woodworking. He came up with the idea of doing a chainsaw carving for each family who lost their son during that 2011 deployment. In July 2016, he made his vision a reality and completed the first carving with the help of a mentor. He presented his carving to the Gold Star Mother of Robert Grenigers on the fifth anniversary of her son’s death, at his graveside at Fort Snelling.

Once word got out about his beautiful gift, people started reaching out to him wanting to buy a carving. He completed his first carved Battlefield Cross by himself after learning about a wounded Marine, who lost his house in a fire. He contacted the Boston Wounded Vet Run and told them he wanted to donate a carving to auction off with proceeds going to help Sgt. Bouchard.

After that, word really got around about his talent and the incredible tributes to America’s heroes. It was then that XVII Carvings was born. Since then, Anthony has traveled all over the country not only presenting his carvings to the families of fallen soldiers, but he also sells his works or auctions them at military events to raise money for his fellow veterans.

It was such a privilege getting to meet and visit with him and the other veterans. I thanked him for both his service in the past as a Marine and now his service to his fellow veterans that he continues to support every day. He is a true patriot and a shining example of how we should all honor our military however we can. If you’d like to learn more about his work, you can visit his Facebook page, XVII Carvings.

On Monday, Nov. 15, we were scheduled to convene in a special legislative session to finalize the maps for our state Senate and House legislative districts as well as our congressional districts. The pandemic threw a wrench in the redistricting process, as we had to complete the legislative districts during session based on estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Unfortunately, not all the numbers provided turned out to be accurate and we’ll need to change a handful of districts as well as vote on the final five congressional maps. It’s expected that we will complete our work in one week.

With interim studies completed, we also are working to get legislation filed. All bill requests must be submitted by Friday, Dec. 10, giving legislative staff plenty of time to research and draft the measures.

With a few exceptions, all bills must then be filed by Thursday, Jan. 20 to be eligible to be heard in the upcoming session. The 2nd Session of the 58th Legislature will get underway on Monday, Feb. 7. If you have any ideas for legislation or concerns about current laws that you believe need to be changed, please contact me in the next few weeks. This is the time to share your thoughts with your local legislators.

As always, it is an honor serving as your voice in the Oklahoma Senate. You can contact me by calling (405) 521-5581 or emailing Bill.Coleman@oksenate.gov.