Giving to the Grounded Greatest Generation

Ralph Dodson familyWorld War II veteran Ralph Dodson and his extended family that attended the ODVA
Ardmore Center program/reception June 27, 2014.

The Oklahoma Honor Flights (OHF) Board of Directors has approved an expanded mission to honor the veterans of World War II.

The primary mission of OHF is to take World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the Memorial established to honor their service.  This is accomplished with a one day charter flight to the nation’s Capital and provides an opportunity to visit other memorials and to see the changing of the guard at Arlington Cemetery.

The Board of Directors recognized that the day is fast approaching when doctor’s orders and individual circumstances will prohibit World War II veterans from traveling.  However, there will still be World War II veterans who live among us.  They too should be recognized.

We will continue flights as long as there are World War II applications requesting the flight and funding is available.  In the meantime, we will begin serving those who are “grounded” by taking the send-off event and a bit of Washington, D.C. to where they live.  This effort will begin by holding a special event at each of the seven long-term care Veteran Centers supported by the State of Oklahoma.  This approach was selected because there are high concentrations of World War II veterans at those facilities.  The Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs lists 489 World War II veterans living at the Centers which includes sites at Lawton, Norman, Claremore, Clinton, Sulphur, Ardmore, and Talihina.  After those Centers are served it is the intent of the Board to consider any other place where we find World War II veterans who are willing to be honored in that manner.  Initial funding for these events was made possible from a donation from the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits ONE Award.  Additional funding, given exclusively for the Operation 4G programs, will be needed to continue this effort.   Donations given for flights will continue to support the trips to Washington, D.C.

Each veteran will enter and be paired with a youth escort during the “parade of patriots”; be recognized by name and branch of service; participate in an exchange zone ceremony; and be given an OHF bag containing a hat, lap blanket, bracelet, and a pictorial of the World War II Memorial entitled “Jewel of the Mall” and a packet of letters from area school children who write letters to the veterans thanking them for their service.  A reception will follow the formal program.

These events are open to the public. Click on the Veterans Center to see video; click on the number of veterans honored to see photos.

August 23, 2013 – Lawton Veterans Center:  78 World War II Veterans honored
November 8, 2013 – Norman Veterans Center: 125 World War II Veterans honored
January 10, 2014 – Claremore Veterans Center: 143 World War II Veterans honored
February 21, 2014 – Clinton Veterans Center: 22 World War II Veterans honored
April 4, 2014 –  Sulphur Veterans Center: 20 World War II Veterans honored
June 27, 2014 –  Ardmore Veterans Center: 60 World War II Veterans honored
July  11, 2014 –  Talihina Veterans Center: 46 World War II Veterans honored

A total of 494 World War II veterans have been honored in the seven Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs long term care facilities.

The Inaugural Operation 4G program was held at a Midwest City Rotary Club meeting

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(photos honoring Cecil Hewitt, his family, and student Rotarians shown above)

Press Release: April 9, 2013
Oklahoma Honor Flights (OHF) expanded its mission on Monday of this week at the regularly scheduled Midwest City Rotary Club meeting. OHF was established in September 2009 to honor World War II veterans by taking them on a day trip to Washington, DC to visit the Memorial built to commemorate their service and sacrifice. Many of those veterans can no longer make a trip of that nature. Rep. Gary W. Banz, OHF Executive Director, introduced the new mission as Operation 4G, “Giving to the Grounded Greatest Generation.”

“We will continue the flights until we complete our waiting list, but there will be World War II veterans with us after we stop flying. They need to be honored as well,” Banz said.

Steve Coleman, OHF Board of Directors Chairman, introduced Rotarian Cecil Hewitt, a World War II veteran, as the first 4G honoree. Hewitt, who turned 89 last week, was honored as a member of the “Greatest Generation” and presented with OHF memorabilia by student Junior Rotarians from Midwest City and Carl Albert High Schools.

To date, OHF has taken 1104 veterans on 11 flights. The 2013 flight schedule begins with an April 17 flight out of Tulsa and a June 5 flight from Midwest City/Oklahoma City. Two more flights are planned for September and October.

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