Oklahoma Veterans Take Honor Flight To Visit Memorials In Washington

Wednesday, September 18th 2013, 7:19 am
By: Dave Davis

Eighty-three Oklahoma World War II veterans got a trip of a lifetime Wednesday.  Oklahoma Honor Flights flew the veterans to Washington as a way to thank them for their service to our country.

It was an early wake-up call for the World War II veterans. They started boarding their buses around 4 a.m. in Bixby.  By 5 a.m., motorcycle escorts, called the Patriot Riders and charter buses were headed to Tulsa International Airport.

"Its' going to be nice.  It's going to be tiresome, but it's going to be nice," said veteran Fred Dunn.

The veterans flew to Baltimore and from there; the National Park Service police escorted their buses to Washington. Despite the recent shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, organizers don't expect any security problems with Wednesday's visit.

Wednesday's visit was busy. After arriving in Washington, the Oklahoma veterans visited the Korean, Vietnam and Lincoln Memorials. From there they toured Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Before returning to Tulsa, the veterans visited the Iwo Jima and Air Force Memorials.

Oklahoma Honor Flights held a ceremony in honor of the veterans at Bixby's Spirit Center Tuesday evening.

Many have never been to Washington, like Pacific theater veteran BJ Buford. 

"I don't know it's kind of mind-boggling right now, this is something that I wasn't expecting and it's an honor for me to get to do this," said BJ Buford. 

For others, the memories of the war are still too real and something they seldom talk about.  Fred Dunn has been to the Iwo Jima Memorial, he also fought at the Battle of Iwo Jima. 

"When we hit Iwo, I can't tell you what it's all about because you've gotta witness it, be there to know what I'm talking about, the feeling is there, but words can't describe it," said Fred Dunn. 

The oldest veteran on the trip was John Bitsche, 96, from Chickasha.  He was in Europe for four years during World War II.  Wednesday was a whirlwind for him. 

As if this day couldn't get any more special, these veterans were treated to a water cannon send-off Wednesday at Tulsa International Airport. 

And for those who couldn't be there, for one vet, this flight was to honor them.

"Well of course you wish you could see them again, but they're not, they're not around.  So I'm glad I'm seeing it for them," said Harriet Frank Marine veteran.

The cost of the trip is about $100,000, which Oklahoma Honor Flights says is all raised from donations.

Wednesday's trip will be one the last Oklahoma Honor Flights with World War II veterans.  Next year, the organization says they'll start taking Korean War veterans to Washington, DC.

9/17/2013 Related Story: Ceremony Honors 83 WWII Vets Headed To DC On Honor Flight