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Posted on: February 14, 2022

County veteran services coordinator and concerned citizens restore headstone

Wayman Cohen Batey headstone

Jeanie Sisson was saddened the day she spotted the broken pieces of a veteran’s headstone lying in a puddle of water at the Moore Cemetery.  

“I had recently taken pictures in the Moore Cemetery and saw a broken military headstone,” she said, adding that she felt this World War II veteran deserved better.Wayman Cohen Batey broken stone

Sisson is a volunteer who takes photos for findagrave.com, a website that allows family, friends, history buffs and other interested persons to locate grave sites and related information. 

“When I talked to someone at the Moore City Hall, I learned it is the responsibility of the family to take care of the stone,” Sisson said. “I called the National Cemetery Administration to see about a new stone and was told the application for a new stone has to be done by a family member or a veteran's organization.”

That’s when Sisson sought help from Cleveland County Veterans Coordinator Charlie Neely. Research by Neely indicated that the veteran Wayman Cohen Batey didn’t appear to have any living relatives, and Neely was able to apply to the National Cemetery Administration on behalf of Batey. 

While the process took months, everything finally came together and Kelly Johnson of Moore Custom Monuments placed the new headstone free of charge as a service to the veteran. 

 “It was very rewarding to know that people like Jeanie and Kelly cared about this veteran who had served our nation,” Neely said. “As a veteran, it is heartening to see this level of respect long after others who remember Mr. Batey are gone.”

Sergeant Batey served in the United States Air Force during World War II. He died in 1967 at age 45.

As a veteran himself, Neely is driven to help veterans and their families. He worked directly with 60 veterans and their spouses last year after starting work for Cleveland County in April, 2021. He also coordinates with American Legion Post 88, Veteran’s Corner and Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation and other veterans organizations to connect vets with services. 

“Our veterans services coordinator provides a one-stop shop for our veterans,” said Cleveland County Commissioner Darry Stacy who conceived of the idea after learning about the position in other states. The position is a partnership with the Cleveland County Health Department and Neely offices at The Well, 210 S. James Garner Ave., Norman. 

The headstone project represents some of the other types of services and aid where Neely will go the extra mile to honor or assist our nation’s heroes.

Neely spent 23 years in active military service to the country. Now he is serving Cleveland County veterans as the Veteran Coordinator, a unique position in Oklahoma implemented in January 2017. Neely holds a Master of Strategic Studies from the US Army War College, the premier senior officer university for Army and other service branch officers, and is currently working towards becoming an accredited Veteran's Administration Veteran Service Officer through the Norman American Legion. 

You can reach Neely at 405-593-5365 or via email at cneely@clevelancountyok.com.

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