Friday, May 18, 2012
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today announced the nomination of nine appointees who will make up the new War Veterans Commission if confirmed by the Oklahoma State Senate. The governor nominated Wes Benge, Robert Keister, Don Wadley, Dr. Curtis Bohlman, Tommy Howell, Darrell McGee, Rich Putnam, Jerry G. Riley and Tommy Sellers to the War Veterans Commission.
The War Veterans Commission is the controlling board of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA). It administers veterans programs in Oklahoma through a director appointed by and responsible to the commission. It is composed of nine members appointed by the governor from lists of names submitted by the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Disabled American Veterans. Four members are selected from a list provided by the American Legion, three from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and two from the Disabled American Veterans. Additionally, three members of the commission must be Vietnam Era veterans.
“We owe a tremendous amount of respect and appreciation to the brave men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces for their service to our country,” Fallin said. “Our veterans deserve nothing but the best. The War Veterans Commission will work diligently to ensure our veterans receive the highest standard of care.”
Recently, the ODVA has come under scrutiny for allegations of mistreatment of residents at the state’s veterans centers. In response to these allegations, the Oklahoma State Senate has launched an interim study to ensure that veterans receive quality care, to investigate reports of abuse and to evaluate the management structure of the agency. Governor Fallin says that she expects her nominees to be part of the solution at ODVA.
“Any instances of abuse or neglect at our veterans facilities are unacceptable and, quite frankly, horrifying,” said Fallin. “I have given each one of my nominees on the ODVA a mandate to actively and aggressively pursue the necessary changes to improve the quality of service at these facilities and to protect the safety and well-being of our veterans.
“The men and women who have served our country in the military deserve an agency which is well-managed and responsive to their needs. The appointees I have nominated will bring a wide variety of experience and expertise to the commission, as well as a passion for serving Oklahoma’s veterans.”
The nominees are below:
Wes Benge of Park Hill is retired from the U.S. Army. He leads the legislative committee of the Oklahoma Department of American Legion and also serves on the American Legion national legislative committee. Benge was previously on the board of directors of the Muskogee War Memorial Park. He is replacing Art Besa, who passed away, and is a selection from the American Legion nominees.
Dr. Curtis “Doc” Bohlman of Woodward is a retired physician. He served in the Vietnam War as a member of the U.S. Naval Reserves. Bohlman received a National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and the Vietnam Campaign Medal. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma Medical School. Bohlman is replacing Dean Derieg and is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Tommy Howell of Duncan is retired from the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in the Vietnam War and previously served on the War Veterans Commission. He was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnamese Campaign Medal and a Meritorious Mast. Howell is replacing Dennis Parrott and is a member of the Disabled Veteran Americans.
Robert Keister of Granite is retired. He previously worked in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Keister served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. Over his 20-year military career, he was awarded the Air Commendation Metal with two bronze Oak Leaf Clusters; the Air Force Longevity service ribbon, the National Defense Ribbon, Republic of Vietnam Campaign medal Air Force Outstanding Unit award and the Air Force Good Conduct medal. Keister received a bachelor’s degree from Mid-America Christian University. He is replacing Ray Penrod and is a selection from the American Legion nominees.
Darrell McGee of Lawton is a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. He served in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. McGee earned a Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Korean Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with five campaign stars and the Armed Forces Reserve Medal. He is a graduate of the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, KS. McGee is replacing Harlan Bjorgo and is serving as a veteran of the Vietnam conflict and was nominated by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Rich Putnam of Ada is an associate professor and director of the School Psychological Services Certification Program at East Central University. He served in the U.S. Army from 1963 to 1966. Putnam was wounded in the Vietnam War and retired from active duty. He was awarded a Purple Heart, Vietnam Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and American Defense Medal. Putnam received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in counseling and student personnel services from North Texas State University and a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University. He is replacing Phillip Boatner, who resigned, and was nominated by the American Legion.
Jerry G. Riley of Bristow is retired from the U.S. Army. He served in the Vietnam War. He was commander of VFW Post 3656 and is a member of the Disabled American Veterans. He was awarded an Oak Leaf with Palm insignia, a Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Bronze Star, the Vietnam Gallantry Cross, and a National Defense Service Medal. Riley is being reappointed to the commission and is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Tommy Sellers of Claremore is an adjunct professor at Rogers State University. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps where he received the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal and a Combat Action Ribbon. Sellers earned a bachelor’s degree in science from Bartlesville Wesleyan College, a master’s degree in management from Southern Nazarene University and a Ph.D. in Business Administration from California Pacific University in Pinole, CA. He is replacing Wesley Hull and will serve as a veteran of the Vietnam War and was nominated by the Disabled American Veterans.
Don Wadley of Afton owns Wadley Farms. He served in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves for 33 years. Wadley’s medals of achievement include: the Legion of Merit, two bronze stars, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal and the Iraq Campaign Medal. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and German and a master’s in Psychology from Northeastern Oklahoma State University. Wadley is replacing Michael Taylor who resigned and is a member of the American Legion.