About a week before Veterans Day, Gov. Brad Henry threw his support behind a privately funded effort to help World War II service members and other veterans get to Washington to visit national monuments and memorials dedicated to their service.
Oklahoma has become an official state hub of Honor Flight Network Inc., Henry said at a state Capitol news conference. The national nonprofit organization raises money to organize and finance trips to Washington. "Unfortunately, many veterans never had a chance to see those monuments, largely due to a lack of resources,” Henry said Monday. "But now we can do something about that.” State Rep. Gary Banz, who led efforts to establish Oklahoma Honor Flight, said the priority is to serve World War II veterans and terminally ill veterans. Banz, R-Midwest City, said estimates say it will cost about $30,000 to send the first group of 35 Oklahoma veterans to Washington. It’s hoped that the first trip can be made in May. The organization’s goal is $100,000. It has a waiting list of more than 125. He said 105 from Oklahoma had made inquiries earlier to the national Honor Flight organization. Steve Coleman, chairman of Oklahoma Honor Flights, said the group will fly veterans to Washington for a two-day visit. Once there, they will ride chartered buses to the National World War II Memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial and other monuments as well as visit the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Arlington National Cemetery. Coleman, of Midwest City, said plans are to have at least one flight next year.