By Morgan Taylor, Reporter
BROKEN ARROW, Oklahoma – May 8 was a special day for the Mission 22 organization, in particularly Muscogee citizen and Mission 22 Advocate Michael D. Coon as a dedication was held for his son, Michael K. Coon also a veteran, who lost his life to suicide in 2015 due to PTSD after his third deployment overseas.
Since that tragedy, father and veteran Michael D. Coon has dedicated many hours to honoring his son while advocating for the Mission 22 organization.
Due to his advocacy and through the partnerships with organization like the Broken Arrow Military History Center, there is now the permanent home for the Army Staff Sgt. Michael K. Coon Memorial.
“You have to continue the fight and that is what I have done with Mission 22 and becoming the steward of the memorial to bring it here to Broken Arrow to make it a National Monument,” Coon said. “This is the first of it kind for our Veterans.”
Coon said he carries great pride in being a steward of the memorial and for the Mission 22 organization. With the organization, Coon travels around the country telling the story of his son and spreading awareness for veteran suicide.
“I am really excited about this,” Coon said. “We are finally getting the word out about veteran suicide awareness and for our Gold Star families, it’s a huge priority to get the message out for the families that are going through the same tragedy we went through 6 years ago.”
“We just want to be a shoulder for them and share how we learned to cope.”
Michael K. Coon was a third generation army veteran behind his father, Michael D. Coon, Vietnam-era Army paratrooper and his late grandfather, World War II veteran, ex-prisoner of war, Bataan Death March Survivor, Phillip Coon.
“I know my father would be proud of what my son, his grandson turned out to be,” Coon said.
Michael K. Coon was just 33 at the time of his death. He had served 10 years of military service including deployments included Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf.
“Of all the stories I heard of my son in the military, he took care of his squad and his soldiers,” Coon said. “When they reached out on the day we lost him in 2015, it was all good praise of how good of a soldier he was.”
Michael D. Coon helped design and organize the unveiling of his son’s memorial with help for funds from the Muscogee Nation. Coon commended Second Chief Dell Beaver for his advocacy of for the project.
According to Coon, the Muscogee Nation donated $57,000 toward the project, along with the Broken Arrow Chamber of commerce with a donation of $160,000 and Mission 22 with a donation of $260,000.
Coon’s efforts will fund another project related to his son’s memorial. Broken Arrow’s Veterans Park will be the home of the Mission 22 War at Home National Memorial. It will feature 20 steel silhouettes of fallen veterans who have lost their lives to suicide.
Coon said that about 20 veterans take their own life each day.
“We need to step up to help our brothers and sisters in arms. We don’t even lose that many in battle a day,” Coon said. “We need to reach out to our vets and show them they have our support.”
“When they come home they often feel like they aren’t worthy anymore, but they are worthy because they singed on the dotted line to give their lives for our country.”
Special guests included two-time Purple Heart Recipient, Korean War Veteran Bill Chisholm. Desmond Doss Jr., the son of Desmond Doss who was WWII Medal of Honor Recipient and the subject of the famous war movie, Hacksaw Ridge, Chris Spence, former Green Beret, 9/11 Responder who inspired the movie 12 Strong, Jim Belcher Jr., son of honorary USS Indianapolis survivor James Belcher. Family of Lori Piestawa, the first Native American Woman to die in active combat, Percy Piestawa (mother), Carla Piestawa (daughter), and Brandon Whiterock (son), Principal Chief David Hill attended along with members of the National Council including Rep. Joyce Deere, Rep. Thomasine Yahola Obsorn, Rep. Mark Randolph, and Rep. Charles McHenry who led the dedication in prayer.
These special guests along with many more were in attendance including veterans, tribal nation officials and city officials.
Coon gave a special thanks to Broken Arrow Mayor Debra Wimpee for accepting the memorial into the city, which also lies on the Muscogee Reservation.
The Broken Arrow Military History Center is located at 112 N Main St Broken Arrow, OK. The 1000 pound steel silhouette is now on displayed outside the building.