With the help of a group of Oklahoma lawmakers, a Grove veteran's hunting wish will come true.
On Wednesday, July 12, during a Pioneer/Marathon Political Action Committee (PAC) fundraiser, members of the PAC - which includes Rep. Josh West (R-Grove) gave Steven Stogner a wish through Soldier's Wish, the Tulsa-based veterans' organization.
Approximately 80 freshman and sophomore legislators, who are part of the PACs, were present at the event at Shangri-La Resort to present Stogner with the wish.
Soldier’s Wish Executive Director Mark Ochsenbein presented Stogner with a certificate for a guided whitetail deer hunt at the Wildlife Refuge in Wellston, Oklahoma, where he is guaranteed to bring home a 170 to 179 class deer.
“I’m excited,” Stogner said, who served in the U.S. Army. “I’ve hunted my whole life.”
West, along with Rep. Kevin McDugle (R-Broken Arrow) presented Ochsenbein a $4,000 check from the Pioneer PAC to cover Stogner’s wish.
McDugle, former executive director of Soldier’s Wish, and West, both veterans, share an office in Oklahoma City, and West knew Stogner, a member of the Grove Police Department, from time in District 5.
“I knew he was active in the community,” West said. “[Stogner] is the perfect candidate, and we wanted to honor him.”
West also presented Stogner with an Oklahoma House of Representatives citation to honor his achievements.
More about Stogner
Stogner earned the rank of Staff Sergeant after serving in the Army for 16 years, from 1997 to 2013, and accruing multiple awards, including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal.
After basic training, Stogner was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery, 1st Infantry Division in Bamberg, Germany. He was later deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo, before being trained at Fort Knox in Kentucky in 2006, and attending Basic Airborne School at Fort Benning in Georgia.
Stogner was a senior parachutist, meaning he made at least 30 jumps, 10 in combat equipment and two at night.
“All my jumps were at night,” Ochsenbein, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, said. “I had my eyes closed.”
Ochsenbein described Stogner as a “been-there-done-that kind of guy.”
Stogner was deployed to Iraq from 2006 to 2008 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
After being wounded in action in July 2011, Stogner was medically retired in January 2013.
What seemed to impress other veterans at the fundraiser the most about Stogner is that he continues to serve his community after being discharged.
Stogner has been an officer with the Grove Police Department since 2014.
When choosing wishes to grant, Ochsenbein said there is always one veteran who stands out from a group and that veteran was Stogner.
“This guy is incredible,” Ochsenbein said. “He is the cutting edge of the sword.”
About Soldier's Wish
The mission of Soldier’s Wish, a nonprofit founded in 2013, is to “identify and provide for unmet needs of active duty service members, veterans of military service and their families.”
The organization honors all branches of service.
Tony Heineman, the Soldier’s Wish advancement and development officer, said Soldier’s Wish is different from other veterans organizations.
“We don’t specialize in anything,” Heineman, a retired U.S. Air Force master sergeant, said. “We just meet unmet needs.”
Heineman said Soldier’s Wish grants about 500 wishes every year, ranging from laptops for veterans who are students to cars and wheelchair ramps for disabled veterans.
He said the organization mostly discovers “wishes that need to be granted” through other veterans organizations and from online nominations.
To nominate a veteran, donate, or learn more about Soldier’s Wish, persons interested may visit www.soldierswish.org.
"When [Rep. Josh West] said [Stogner]'s a true warrior, he wasn't kidding," Tony Heineman, of Soldier's Wish, said.
Stogner's numerous awards were listed on the House of Representatives citation he received. They are as follows:Purple Heart Bronze Star Medal Army Commendation Medal Three Oak Leaf Cluster Army Achievement Medal Two Oak Leaf Cluster Valorous Unit Award Afghanistan Campaign medal with two Campaign Stars Iraq Campaign Medal with one Campaign Star Good Conduct Medal 3rd Award National Defense Service Medal 2nd Award Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal Kosovo Campaign Medal Global War on Terrorism Service Medal NATO Medal 2nd Award Senior Parachutist Badge Pathfinder Badge Combat Action Badge
Did You Know?
Rep. Josh West (R-Grove), along with Rep. Kevin McDugle (R-Broken Arrow) formed the first veterans’ caucus of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Senate in March. The bipartisan group has 25 members from the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Senate.
“The most important thing is that we have veterans talking about veterans’ issues,” West said.