When asked where I’m from, I’m proud to say that I am from Lawton. I wasn’t born in Lawton, nor was I born in Oklahoma, but I am a Lawtonian and I am an Oklahoman. That can be said of many here in Lawton-Fort Sill. For me, it’s one of the reasons why I love our great city.
When I first moved here, I had no idea who I was or what I wanted to be, but that changed soon after. I come from a proud Hispanic background, and through living in Oklahoma, I was introduced to my Native American roots. I was not a military child. I grew up in Dallas, and my grandmother raised me for a majority of my teenage years. When she became ill, my brother and I took care of her as long as we could, and that’s when we made the decision to move to Cache, Oklahoma, with my mother. We moved my grandmother in with my aunt to be better taken care of. Now you’re probably saying to yourself “Why would you move from Dallas to little ole Cache?” I’ll soon get to that.
At first I hated the idea. Besides, I wasn’t going to finish high school. I had a plan to get a job at a comic book shop in Texas, for the rest of my life. Yes, I was a nerd. When I moved with my mother, she made it a rule for me to go back to school and finish out the years I had left. I could never be more thankful for her and Charles Young for making me graduate. I was able develop who I was, find my passion and create a support group of people. I always say that moving here was the greatest decision I could have ever made, this is where I found myself and discovered the truest blessing, which is working for the sake others. Today, so many amazing people that I love so dearly surround me. I never imagined that I would be where I am today. Because of all this, it is a constant reminder of where I came from and the amazing life I live now.
There are many like me who are not from Lawton-Fort Sill, but it’s the diversity within the city’s culture and ethnicity that makes us unique with a wide variety of choices of art, food, specialty stores, churches and bars – yes, bars. Through these avenues and many more, we have the ability to travel through different cultures without leaving our soil. All of this brings us to one word, “pride.” To have representation from all walks of life that have equal pride in where they’re from and where they are now or how they got here floods our streets. In addition, we add an extra sense of pride with how we support those who serve our country. Being a military town pushes us to be much more than your average city. When we live in Lawton, we represent the many, not just the few.
What’s the one phrase we hear? “There’s nothing to do in Lawton!” I among many others beg to differ. With the awe-inspiring Wichita Mountains Wild Life Refuge, the treasure that is Medicine Park, the educational foundation of the Museum of the Great Plains, the push for local artists at the Leslie Powell Gallery or the Native Hippy Gallery, there’s plenty to immerse yourself in here in Lawton. Lawton and the surrounding area also serve as venues for community-centric events, such as the Arts for All Festival, International Festival, United Way Blue Tie Gala, Leadership Lawton Fort Sill Wine Dine and Dance and the Mayors Blue’s Ball in Medicine Park. We are also a city that thrives with local businesses and a community that appreciates small business. I challenge you to drive down any street and not see a small business that is locally owned by an individual that lives and supports Lawton-Fort Sill.
With us having so much to be proud of, the one thing I see that needs changing the most is our mentality towards our own city. Changing how we think of it, how we speak of it and how we act in it. Yes, we do have much that needs improving, but that should not stop us from changing our negative views to positive views. When someone asks me where I’m from, I proudly say “Lawton-Fort Sill,” not “the Shady Five-Eighty.” These terms will continue to keep us in the position that we seem to see ourselves in; when in reality we are a thriving, growing city that has much to look forward to. We are all guilty of it, but instead of continuing down the same path, we must all come together as we do so well and know that we are all Lawton Proud.
The citizens are what make Lawton-Fort Sill flow. Each event, business, nonprofit, city government employee, firefighter, police officer, civic leader, entrepreneur, teacher and student is what makes Lawton Fort Sill great. We are what keep the blood flowing. When I work within this community, I work with likeminded individuals that put just as much work, if not more, into what they are passionate about. That is the greatest blessing of all for me. I come from Dallas, but as big as that city is, it doesn’t even come close to having a heart the size of Lawton-Fort Sill. I urge you to join me in being proud of where we live, take pride in what we do and how we do it and let’s take care of the very city we represent. There is a long road ahead but we are all Oklahoma Strong. We are all Lawton Strong. And at the end of the day, Lawton is a beautiful city with beautiful people in it. Stand up tall Lawton-Fort Sill and know we are proud.
I leave you with this, Professor David DeSteno said, “Pride can be a virtue, but it needs to be the right kind of pride.” Let’s not be blinded by agenda and personal needs/gains, but rather let’s open our eyes to be people that have pride in our city as a whole and work together to make it a better success than it was yesterday.