“News from the Hut”: 15 April 2013

for American Legion Post #142; Hominy, Oklahoma.
>>> by Gary Lanham

This will be a special week for Hominy American Legion Post #142 and two particular heroes’ Babe Long and Richard Pope.  April 17th marks a historic journey for two of our WWII veteran’s to the National Capitol, to tour amazing memorials and historical commemorations of our collective history as a free nation.  These icons that stand as witness to our God given rights rest in the documents preserved, memorials to our patriots though all wars, and the Tomb of the unknown lost.  This visit will culminate in the most recent memorial recognizing the incredible courage and sacrifice of our greatest generation, the World War II Memorial.  It is captured in a recreation of the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima. A few weeks ago I shared those details while discussing Charles O’Leary’s visit to Arizona and the recognition of Ira Hayes who participated in the raising of the flag at Mount Suribachi.

Just to give you an idea of what our intrepid travelers will encounter, here is a rough draft of their schedule:

Hotel –
4:00 a.m. Coffee
4:15 a.m. Veterans/Guardians begin boarding buses
4:45 a.m. Depart Hotel with escort to Airport
5:15 a.m. Arrival at Airport/begin processing through TSA
6:30 a.m. Board Miami Air Charter
7:15 a.m. Wheels up

BWI/Washington, D.C.
10:30/10:45 a.m. Arrive BWI Baltimore (D.C. local time); board buses to WWII Memorial
accompanied by United States Park Police escort for remainder of the day
12:30/12:45 p.m. Arrive at World War II Memorial
1:55 p.m. Board Buses to Korean, Vietnam, Lincoln Memorials
2:00 p.m. Arrive Korean, Vietnam, Lincoln Memorials
3:15 p.m. Board buses for Arlington National Cemetery
4:00 p.m. View changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns
4:30 p.m. Board buses for Iwo Jima and Air Force Memorials
5:30 p.m. Begin return to BWI Airport Baltimore via windshield tour of Mall/Capitol
6:30 p.m. Arrive BWI; process TSA; board Miami Air Charter
7:15 p.m. Wheels up BWI (D.C. local time)
9:15 p.m. Arrive at Airport and transport back to Hotel (Tulsa/OKC local time)

(The schedule in Washington, D.C. is always subject to conditions of weather and traffic.)  Whew, that’s a heavy schedule even for a young man!  I spoke to an old friend and comrade who has been a host on many flights and I expressed concern about the constitution of these elderly patriots for the rigors of such a tour.  She laughed and said “These seasoned warriors can power nap like no one’s business, in between sites they collect their energy and when they hit the next spot they are up and at’em.”  She confessed she was exhausted while they were laughing and back slapping on return.

Here is a little history of the Honor Flights which are always looking for added support.  The true origin of Oklahoma Honor Flights (OHF) can be traced to the sixteen million United States men and women who served their country in World War II (between 1941-1945). One such individual was Al Willoughby, who proudly served in the United States Army Air Corps. Al was a native of Georgia but following his retirement from the United States Air Force, he adopted Midwest City, Oklahoma as his home.

In June of 2009 Al excitedly told about a moving “lifetime” experience that he had just encountered.  He and his son-in-law, Joe Sparger, had been invited to travel to Washington, D.C. with a group of World War II veterans and family members.  The trip was sponsored by Dallas Honor Flights, an official hub of Honor Flights Network, Inc., Springfield, Ohio, which began in 2005 with a mission to provide an expense paid trip for World War II veterans to see their Memorial.

Al and his daughters, Janet Anderson and Sherry Sparger, shared his story with many people.  During the summer of 2009, with the inspiration of Al’s experience and the effort of his daughter Sherry serving as a call to action, it was decided that our Oklahoma World War II heroes should not have to go to Texas to be honored for their world saving heroics.

Requirements for an Oklahoma Hub with the national organization were identified, meetings were held, a website was created, local volunteers were recruited, an IRS-recognized organization was secured, and Oklahoma began taking care of her World War II veterans.  An endorsement letter from Senator Tom Coburn was received.  In November of 2009 Governor Brad Henry held a press conference in the Blue Room at the State Capitol Building (with Al Willoughby in attendance) urging all Oklahomans to support the effort to honor Oklahoma World War II veterans in this special and unique way.
During the first two years of existence, OHF successfully conducted five flights with the inaugural mission taken in May of 2010.  The second flight was taken in October 2010.  In 2011 three flights were taken–May, June (Tulsa), and October. Those five flights took 502 World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the national memorial in honor of their service and sacrifice.  All of this was made possible by school students, individuals, civic organizations, and corporations numbering in the thousands who have freely given their time and money to say “we remember and thank you.”

With the assistance of volunteer committees in Tulsa, Lawton, and Oklahoma City three trips in seven weeks were taken on April 18, May 4, and June 6, 2012. Flights were also taken on September 12 from Tulsa and September 25 from Oklahoma City.  The final flight of 2012 was taken on October 24th. OHF has made plans for four more flights in 2013 to honor Oklahoma men and women who helped change the world 65 to 70 years ago.

At the end of the 2012 flying season OHF has taken 1104 World War II veterans on eleven flights. There are more than 270 World War II and 80 Korean War veteran applications on file awaiting this opportunity for all in Oklahoma to express thanks for their service and sacrifice. (Credit OHP Website)

Our Post Commander Jim Frazier wants to remind everyone that the American Legion District Convention for District 1A and 1B (NE Oklahoma) this year will be held April 27th in Pryor Oklahoma. He emphasized that a good showing goes along way when voting takes place. Please contact him so he can develop an attendance roster. of our favorite are tax deductible. Contributors should consult their tor concerning the financial benefits of making such a donation.

Our regular meetings are the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of each month at 1900 hours (7:00 PM) and our Monday morning Koffee Klatch meetings over biscuits and gravy (or waffles) where we keep up on each other’s mischievous doings run generally from 7 am to 9:30 am.

About Gary Lanham

Authors the weekly article "News from the Hut", about local American Legion Post #142 in Hominy, OK. Read his weekly articles in the "Hominy News Progress".
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