THUMBS UP to local and state leaders for honoring Sgt. Jason McCluskey.

Family, friends and officials gathered this week for a bridge dedication ceremony honoring the 2004 McAlester High School graduate who was killed in 2010 while serving in Afghanistan.

During the ceremony, the McAlester Fire Department raised a giant American flag near the bridge over U.S. Highway 69 on U.S. Highway 270 that was named the “Sgt. Jason McCluskey Memorial Bridge.”

McCluskey, a U.S. Army paratrooper, was killed in action on Nov. 4, 2010 while serving in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

He graduated from MHS in 2004 and enlisted into the U.S. Army in 2006 before he died from injuries suffered while insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire.

McCluskey was posthumously awarded the two Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star, and received other recognition for his service.

District 7 State Sen. Larry Boggs, co-sponsored Senate Bill 641, which named the bridge after McCluskey and Gov. Kevin Stitt signed the bill on May 15.

McCluskey is among the many who have died working to protect our country and our freedoms. We owe the fallen, military veterans and their families a debt of gratitude for their service.

We thank veterans and hope everyone honors those who have served in the military this Veterans Day.

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THUMBS UP to everyone shopping local this holiday season — and to organizers of an annual cash giveaway for drawing more shoppers.

The Downtown McAlester Cash Giveaway usually features a $10,000 grand prize — but this year’s total is $25,000 to commemorate the 25th year for the holiday season drawing held in downtown McAlester.

Event Coordinator Jeanie McCabe said the bigger prize has generated a buzz among some locals for the event’s 25th year.

Money raised from participating businesses pays for advertising and expenses and the remainder goes toward the grand prize and other prizes awarded during the Dec. 19 event.

Tickets for the event help local businesses with promotions — giveaways, social media promotions, double tickets, and more — to entice more people to shop locally.

The night of the event brings the community together for the drawings from the big ticket hopper, with families often bundling up, bringing hot chocolate and laughing with friends along Choctaw Avenue.

We promote shopping local and bringing the community together.

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THUMBS UP to JP Tedesco for his courage and strength as he fights heart disease.

The McAlester 4-year-old was born with transposition of the great arteries (TGA) — a rare heart defect in which the two main arteries are transposed.

Doctors also diagnosed him with mitral valve anomalies, septal defects (holes in the heart), subpulmonic stenosis with septal hypertrophy, bicuspid aortic valve, borderline hypoplastic left, and pulmonary hyptertension.

JP smiled and laughed recently as friends and family held a send-off gathering at the McAlester Fire Emergency Response Complex.

McAlester firefighters signed a fire helmet for JP and gave him a tour of some fire engines.

We applaud JP and everyone battling disease.

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