The Duncan Banner
It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Stephens and Jefferson County veterans selected for the Oklahoma Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., Friday.
Some 93 war veterans from all around southwest Oklahoma departed from Lawton early Friday morning and flew into Washington, boarding charter buses there for the 90-minute ride into the capital city.
Bob Pollock, who served in the Army 3rd Armed Division operating Sherman tanks, said he was surprised and impressed by the amount of fanfare generated as the Honor Flight attendees visited various war memorials scattered all around Washington, D.C. Pollock had previously visited D.C. but it was before the National World War II Memorial was opened to the public in 2004.
“There was police escorts everywhere we went. They really rolled out the red carpet,” Pollock said. “I really appreciated it and I had been looking forward for this trip.”
Those accompanying the veterans said the amount of gratitude they received from passers-by was staggering.
“One of the most amazing things was how many people, young and old, came up to the vets to shake their hand and thank them for their service,” said Susan Nichols, daughter of A.G. “Salty” Garrett, one of the veterans on the trip.
The trip brought up many memories for Frank Barnes, who served in the Army Air Corps as a nose gunner. He said he felt everyone involved in their trip was very professional and sincere. Barnes was very interested in visiting the Arlington National Cemetery. He said the landmark holds a special meaning to him as a representation of what the cemetery means to the United States.
“It was just such a huge cemetery,” Barnes said. “It is such a dramatic reminder of how our freedom has cost the lives of so many people.”
Barnes said he enjoyed the fellowship and time he shared with the other veterans on the trip. He said no one ever complained once on the whole trip, even as small delays interrupted up their schedules.
For James White, a former rifleman in the 6th Marine Division, the gratitude he received on the tour was overwhelming.
“They went out of there way to make it a big deal,” White said. “Everywhere we went, we were saluted. I probably shook about 100 hands Friday.”
White said he was impressed by the size of the Marine Corps War Memorial, outside the walls of the Arlington National Cemetery. He said he was in awe of the size of the sculpture depicting the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima.
“That (was) the biggest M1 rifle I’ve ever seen,” White said.
As for the Honor Flight and everyone involved from the volunteers who escorted the men and women around Washington to the donors who made the trip possible, White said he hoped everyone was able to take back a lesson from the voyage.
“The people who participated and the ones that know about (the Honor Flight), hopefully get a little bit more informed of the wars we fought and maybe a little more patriotic,” White said.