Just last year, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Lowell Armstrong was on a plane taking him to a six-month stay in Iraq.
Back in 1999, he'd gone to Turkey. Then, in 2004, it was Pakistan. That was followed by Kuwait, from 2005 to 2006.
But last week, he boarded a plane bound for World War II, or at least the memories of the war.
The trip Wednesday was the first of five scheduled in 2012 for Oklahoma Honor Flights, a nonprofit organization created solely to honor Oklahoma's veterans for their sacrifices. At this time, the main emphasis of the program is to allow World War II veterans to see their memorial in Washington, D.C.
Armstrong, 37, made the trip to accompany a World War II veteran in his 90s named Bill Pummill, his grandfather.
Pummill, of Tulsa, a U.S Marine veteran, served in the Pacific Theater. He was on Iwo Jima for a time. He and Armstrong always had been close, but the grandfather never talked much about his service.
A few years ago, he wrote down memories of some of his World War II experiences and gave a copy to each of his grandchildren. Those stirred the interest of Armstrong, a graduate of Jenks High School, who is stationed at Air Force Space Command headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.
Then Armstrong's father and Pummill's son-in-law, Chris Armstrong, of Tulsa, who served in the U.S. Navy during Vietnam, mentioned the Oklahoma Honor Flights.
The decision was made — Pummill would go as a World War II veteran and Lowell and Chris as chaperones to veterans.
So, Lowell Armstrong was asked, what was different about this plane trip?
“Experiencing this not only with my grandfather, but the rest of the veterans as they got to see the memorial that's dedicated to them,” Armstrong said. “What amazes me is the courage that they had. They knew exactly what they were getting themselves into.
“Some of them had to fake their age just to join the service because they felt it was their duty.”
Again, as World War II veterans have aged, the emphasis has been placed on ensuring they have an opportunity to go to Washington to visit their memorial.
The inaugural Honor Flight took place in May 2005.
A half-dozen small planes flew out of Springfield, Ohio, taking 12 World War II veterans on a visit to the memorial, according to the national organization's website.
In August 2005, an ever-
In 2009, state Rep. Gary W. Banz, R-Midwest City, the son and nephew of five World War II brothers, worked to help start the Oklahoma Honor Flights hub. Before that, Oklahoma veterans had to travel with hubs of other states.
About a week before Veterans Day 2009, then-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.
In early November of that year, Henry announced that Oklahoma had become an official state hub of Honor Flight Network Inc., a national nonprofit organization that raises money to organize and finance trips.
And May 17, 2010, marked the inaugural trip of the Oklahoma Honor Flights chapter to Washington. The second trip was taken in October 2010.
The recent trip was the sixth flight overall for Oklahoma Honor Flights.
With this flight, 605 veterans have traveled with the Oklahoma Honor Flights hub.
Pummill described the WWII Memorial as amazing.
“That's not just to the World War II veterans, it's to everybody that was a citizen of the United States at that time,” Pummill said. “It got the people together, including the ladies that went out and was Rosie the Riveters and everybody who jumped in and did work.”
Lowell Armstrong said the trip is special not only for what you see, but what you get the opportunity to hear.
“It was something to hear all the stories from all the veterans about their experiences,” he said. “Another thing was definitely the reception we had at the Tulsa airport last night. They estimated there were more than 500 people there to greet us when we came off the aircraft.”
That's a plane trip to remember.