VA Medical Center to celebrate 100-year anniversary next year
By Cathy Spaulding
via the Muskogee Phoenix newspaper (OK) web site
In a little more than one year, Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center will mark 100 years of serving veterans from atop Agency Hill.
The $500,000 state hospital opened on June 14, 1923, as Soldiers Memorial Hospital. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website, 165 employees served 1,500 veterans within the first year.
The state initially leased the Muskogee hospital to the federal government to take care of World War I veterans in Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas.
During a 90th anniversary celebration, former Medical Center Director James R. Floyd said the hospital opened as a gift to veterans.
He said that while other states were awarding bonuses to World War I veterans, Oklahoma chose to give “a more lasting gift of free health care.”
Floyd said the original hospital had inpatient beds, a library, a large pool hall and a place for dancing.
According to historian Jonita Mullins, Congresswoman Alice Robertson helped bring the VA hospital to Muskogee.
The federal government took ownership of the 25-bed facility on March 6,1925.
That same year, the hospital received one of more than 150 mass-produced Spirit of the American Doughboy statues. The Muskogee statue was dedicated in Sept. 5. 1925, to honor Native American veterans of World War I, particularly those of the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek and Seminole nations.
The hospital has had numerous additions over the years.
Floyd said the hospital dedicated a $36 million replacement bed building in 1998 and a 15-bed inpatient mental health unit in 2006.
Also in 2006, the hospital was renamed for U.S. Navy Officer Jack Cleveland Montgomery, a Cherokee Nation veteran of World War II. Montgomery was awarded two Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars and the Medal of Honor for his actions. Montgomery, a graduate of the Chilocco Indian Agricultural School, served in the 180th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division in Italy.
Read the entire article on the Muskogee Phoenix web site.
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