Oklahoma World War II veterans recognized at veterans center in Norman

On Friday, with Veterans Day around the corner, leadership students of Noble High School, including Allen, visited the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Center in Norman. There, they were paired with 121 World War II veterans.
by Bryan Painter Modified: November 11, 2013 at 3:00 pm •  Published: November 11, 2013

The first 4G ceremony was held at Lawton in August, honoring 78 World War II veterans, he said.

The second was Friday at Norman. Only three in attendance had been on an Oklahoma Honor Flights trip.

U.S. Navy veteran Allen Vann, 96, was among the majority who hadn't.

Pleasure and privilege

Vann was a chief torpedoman's mate on a submarine where at times they would try to blend in with the enemy's ships, keeping enough distance not to be noticed.

Before Friday's ceremony, Vann recalled the day a guy on the submarine asked him, “You don't expect to go home, do you?”

“I said, ‘Well, either I'm going back home to Oklahoma or I'm going home up there,'” Vann said as he pointed up. “The reason I'm living is that I didn't have any sense. I didn't know any better.

“I count it as a pleasure and a privilege to have served. I was honored that I could do what I did.”

Roll call

The name of each of the men and women at Friday's ceremony was read aloud. Several served in more than one war. As some heard their name, they raised their hand. A few answered, “Here.” Veterans were given items of appreciation, including an Oklahoma Honor Flights cap, a lap blanket and a book, “World War II Memorial: Jewel of the Mall.” And a packet of letters written by students from the Oklahoma City metro area was placed in the veterans' rooms.

At Oklahoma Honor Flights ceremonies the night before a trip, Banz uses the exchange zone in a relay race as an example of generations of the past placing the responsibility of defending this nation in the hands of those much younger.

He did so at the 4G ceremony, as well.

“For our nation to remain strong, we must successfully transfer from one generation to the next, the values, the traditions and the principles upon which our way of life is based,” Banz said.

The veterans were given a pocket-size copy of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights that they took the oath to “preserve, protect and defend.”

The young people were given an Oklahoma Honor Flights commemorative coin for the “heroes” next to them. The students and the veterans were asked to face each other and exchange these items.

Allen took the commemorative coin and softly placed it in Brown's shaking right hand.

“This is for you,” she said to her new friend.

by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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