WASHINGTON — “Now I know what royalty feels like,'' Charles Austin, of Norman, said as he walked along the granite plaza of the National World War II Memorial last week.
The Greatest Generation isn't used to being pampered.
But Austin, 88, felt that way on Wednesday, courtesy of the Oklahoma hub of Honor Flights, a non-profit organization formed to show gratitude to the men and women who served the U.S. military during World War II by taking them, all expenses paid, to Washington to see their memorial and some other sights.
“It's an amazing trip,'' said Austin, who was one of 103 Oklahoma veterans on the fifth Honor Flights trip from the state.
Before the Oklahomans arrived, Honor Flight contingents from Wyoming, Missouri and Tennessee walked the vast memorial as drizzle turned into rain. A supply of wheelchairs was stowed on each bus. Each group had its own hats and T-shirts — Ozarks Honor Flight, Music City Honor Flight, Oklahoma Honor Flights.
Some of the veterans were greeted by family members, some from the Washington area and some from farther away. Roger Deapen, of Harrah, toured the memorial with his son, who had come from Los Angeles.
As the veterans walked to the memorial's entrance, six members of the U.S. Air Force saluted, while on-lookers clapped and expressed gratitude for the veterans' sacrifices.
“I've never experienced anything like this,'' said Kelly Kappel, of Clinton. “They have got this thing so organized. They really did a good job.”
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, was there to greet the veterans from his state. U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., was there for his.
U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, stood in the plaza of the memorial talking to the Oklahoma veterans and posing for pictures near the Oklahoma pillar.