Local ‘Honor Flight’ sends vets to Washington

Honor Flight organizer Linda Banz details the order of events for the Oct. 11 sendoff ceremony to former B-24 “Liberator” pilot Thomas Potts and his wife prior to the start of the ceremony. Linda is the wife of former RSC Regent and Oklahoma Honor Flight organizer Gary Banz. Photo by Bryan Trude

By: Adriana Valtinson, editor-in-chief

RSC hosted a public recognition of World War II veterans’ Honor Flight send-off to see war memorials in Washington D.C. Monday, Oct. 11. Oklahoma State Representative Gary Banz said the reception and Honor Flight, which took place the following day, was meant to shed light on what the veterans experienced during the war.

During the reception, Linda Banz, from the Oklahoma Honor Flight Committee, called out the names and military affiliations of each of the veterans who were present and whom she said it was their goal to honor. The reception also included brief videos of the veterans on a previous Honor Flight that took place earlier this year, as well as a video depicting a man taking his grandsons to a movie to teach them about the war.

G. Banz compared the lack of historical information being spread from generation to generation to dropping the baton in a four by 100 meter relay at the Olympics.
“We have a problem,” he explained. “It is not in this room. As a nation we have drifted from our roots, and we are in danger of dropping the baton. For a nation to remain strong, it must transfer from one generation to the next the values, traditions and principles upon which it was built.”

The reception and Honor Flight encouraged the veterans to pass stories of the war on to the younger generation and encouraged the younger generation to listen to those stories and remember them.

To the “young people,” Banz said, “Members of the group we honor tonight are part of the group that is now known as the ‘greatest generation.’ They faced and defeated those tyrants and despotic rule. They saw and did things no human being ought to do or see… Sixteen million responded to the nation’s call by serving the military. Less than three million remain.”

To further his point, the younger people in the audience were asked to give the veterans commemorative coins “created especially to honor our heroes and Oklahoma Honor Flights” in exchange for pocket sized copies of the Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution and Bill of Rights.

He explained that an event like this is “incredibly liberating” for the veterans. Banz said, “When a lot of them came home, they buried their feelings. It allows them to open up to each other and their families.”

He added that many of those families are hearing the stories for the first time and stressed the importance of both passing and receiving the baton. By taking that baton, those who came after the war can honor the veterans by “pledging to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and our way of life,” as they had done. Banz reminded those in the audience of all that the veterans, both those in the room and those who could not be, of all they had sacrificed and said, “Young people, here are your heroes.”

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