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November 1, 2012

After 46 years, a soldier comes home

NORMAN — James L. Whited wasn’t born in Norman, but in his heart he was a son of Oklahoma.

Norman was where he grew up and went to school, graduating from Norman High. It was home to his parents; later, only his mother and sister remained.

He may have been born near Detroit, but Norman is where he called home, so much so that this is where he settled his family as he answered his country’s call to arms.

On Tuesday, Army Maj. James Lafayette Whited came home to Norman one last time.

His family and members of the Patriot Guard were on hand at Will Rogers Airport to escort the major’s casket to Primrose Funeral Service.

He will be buried at 10:30 a.m. Friday with full military honors.

After 46 years, his life’s journey will come full circle.

Stateside, 1945

Annie grew up in Florida. She was a young woman in her early 20s when she met James Whited in 1945.

He had been an enlisted man in World War II, serving as a tailgunner on a B24. He was part of a crew flying the supply line, known as The Hump, in Burma. He was assigned to the 308th Bombardment Group whose missions served to disrupt Japanese supply lines in the South China Sea area. Those runs included the Gulf of Tonkin, on Vietnam’s eastern coast, and served as his introduction to Southeast Asia.

But, this was autumn and the war had been over since spring. Other wars were still to come.

Whited had just mustered out of active duty and was about to return to Oklahoma and join the family construction business, but first, he and Annie married.

He brought her home to his parents, Paul and Cora Whited. For the next five years, the young couple built a life in Oklahoma.

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