It is surprising that we need a campaign to say why we are “Lawton Proud.” Having been born here, graduated from Lawton Public Schools and Cameron University, and now serving as the Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce chairman for 2018-2019, I truly am Lawton Proud, and I appreciate the opportunity to share why.
Upon completing my 28-year military career, my wife, Tammy, and I discussed where we would retire from the Army. We’ve lived in many places – Washington, D.C.; Killeen, Texas; Junction City, Kansas; Leavenworth, Kansas; and in Germany – but we decided to be near family and friends, and Lawton Fort Sill won hands down. It was an easy decision and with 40 percent of Fort Sill’s military retirees choosing this as their retirement location, I know that we are not alone.
Since returning to Lawton in 2006, I’ve heard three consistent things “wrong with Lawton” – bad schools, high crime, and nothing to do. I can personally attest to stories of military leaders and community members whose children graduated from Lawton Public Schools and were as competitive and successful as anyone from another school district when it came to post-high school options. As for crime, reports show that Lawton’s rate has steadily declined over the last decade. With community support, the Lawton Police Department and first responders have worked diligently to create a much safer place for families to live and raise their children. Regarding the theme of having nothing to do, I ask, “What activities do you seek when you travel to other communities?” Being a golfer, I travel to other communities, but aside from special attractions and events, Lawton offers most of what other communities do. What we lack, we can surely create here. The more we support local businesses, the better they become. My challenge to you is to visit local places and events the next time you look for something to do.
Here are just a few attractions Lawton has that other communities do not:
- Fort Sill National Historic Landmark and Museum: Built in 1869, it’s the only active Army installation on the South Plains among those established during the Indian Wars.
- Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge: With 59,000 acres, it’s America’s oldest wildlife refuge (created in 1901) and hosts the longest-running Easter pageant in the U.S.
- Museum of the Great Plains: One of Lawton’s top visitor attractions since 1952.
- Arts for All Festival: Held the second week in May since 1977.
- International Festival: Held the last week in September since 1979.
- Wichita Mountain Classic Heifer and Pre-Junior Show takes place the first weekend in December.
Since stepping into my position as Chamber chairman, I have looked forward to overseeing our city create its first “community district.” Named after Lawton’s namesake, Brig. Gen. Henry Ware Lawton, the Ware District will be the first of its kind for Lawton. Look to Oklahoma City or Dallas, and you’ll find unique districts with one-of-a-kind culture and history. The Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce, City of Lawton, and Lawton Convention and Visitors Bureau are excited to host a new monthly event, “Ware on C,” intended to bring our community together for food, games and entertainment downtown, while also promoting economic development and a sense of unity. I encourage you to join us as we work hand-in-hand to help our city – the place we call home – unlock its full potential.
My challenge to you, if you are still not feeling “Lawton Proud,” is to be willing to participate in making your community a better place. There are a couple of sayings I try to live and work by.
“If it is to be, it is up to me.”
“If a task is once begun, never leave until it’s done. Be the labor great or small; do it well or not at all.”
My dad recited the latter quote to me when I was a child. His advice remains relevant to my life – and to our city. I truly believe we can make Lawton Fort Sill one of our state’s premier communities. We have so much to offer. If we embrace our city and commit ourselves to the task at hand, those around us will see why you and I are Lawton Proud.