SULPHUR — Not so long ago, Loyd Harber had been tending to crops and a few milk cows on the family farm near Roff in the eastern half of Oklahoma.
Now, amid the fire of World War II, Harber, a U.S. Army soldier, lay in a foxhole on another continent fighting off the chill of winter and more so, the threat of death.
The World War II machine-gunner's 5-foot-9, 162-pound frame bore the shrapnel from an 88 mm shell.
Fellow U.S. soldiers covered Harber in pine brush and then had to move out as the enemy pushed them back. He lay as still through the night as the pain would allow, hoping the silent prayers would keep his focus off the sound of the nearby German soldiers.
That was the mid-1940s, but the memories remained as Harber, 88, of Sulphur, and 82 other veterans participated in an Oklahoma Honor Flights trip this summer from Oklahoma City to Washington, D.C.
The purpose of Oklahoma Honor Flights is to allow veterans, primarily those of World War II, to see their memorial and other monuments. That program has taken two flights this year and has two more remaining in 2013.
The application for the trip has space to list “Activity during World War II” and Harber included Battle of the Bulge, Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
But there's much more to it than one line.
Harber had never been to the nation's capital before the Oklahoma Honor Flights trip. The only time he'd ever been to the eastern U.S. was when the plane carrying the wounded soldier made a stopover in New York, while taking him from Paris to a military hospital in El Paso, Texas.
This year's trip not only took Harber back east, but carried his memory to the foxhole in World War II.
“I'd accepted Christ during a revival at Lightning Ridge when I was 14,” Harber said. “I called on Him that night. I thought if it isn't the Lord's will for me to die, I'll get out of here.”
The next morning those troops who had covered him in the foxhole staged a counter attack. They were able to rescue the Oklahoman.
“I was afraid the Germans would find me first, but it didn't happen that way,” he said. “Our boys came and got me.”
So far, 13 flights
The first Oklahoma Honor Flights trip was taken in May 2010.
Including that flight, 1,270 have participated so far on 13 flights, said Gary Banz, executive director of Oklahoma Honor Flights. Funds are raised so the veteran is not charged for the trip.
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