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June 15, 2014

Oklahoma Honor Flights take veterans to Washington D.C.

NORMAN — Aged hands that had once painted the sides of the USS Dempsey fumbled with a bronze coin. With an air plane and the words “Oklahoma Honor Flight” etched into one side, this coin was just one of the many memories collected on a day trip to Washington D.C.

These hands belong to Navy Veteran Harold Gill, one of the 81 veterans that flew to D.C. as a participant in the Oklahoma Honor Flight, and one of the six on that flight from Norman. A trip specially catered to World War II veterans, Gill said it was one he wouldn’t soon forget.

The program began as a hub off of the original Honor Flight Network, State Representative Gary Banz, R- Midwest City, said. Banz, co-founder and executive director of OHF has been on all 17 flights organized by the Oklahoma hub, since the inaugural flight in May of 2010.

Among the veterans on the June 4th flight sat Gill and his granddaughter, Teresa Whited. All veterans travel with a guardian, and with Whited’s medical experience as a nurse practitioner, she felt she would do well with Gill and other veterans on the trip.

From the Arlington National Cemetery to the Lincoln Memorial, the day trip to D.C. makes for a tightly packed schedule, Whited said.

But the busy trip allows veterans to see the very memorials that have been dedicated in their honor — something Gill said made this trip a very special one.

“It shows veterans what the community has done to remember them,” Gill said. “Seeing all of that was really something else.”

Gill said the memorial that stuck out to him the most was the the World War II Memorial, one that reflected his own experiences in the Navy. After enlisting in 1943, Gill spent 24 years of active duty service in the Navy before retiring to civilian service at Tinker Air Force Base for 32 years. During his time in the Navy, Gill ventured across the South Pacific in the U.S.S. Dempsey, an Evarts-class destroyer escort, and the U.S.S. Dixie, an auxiliary cruiser.

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