Gary Banz, Creator of Oklahoma Honor Flights

banz-military2Sgt. Gary Banz, who served 12 years as a legislator after military service, will receive this year’s Douglas O. Dollar Distinguished Service Award for creating the Oklahoma Honor Flights organization in 2009 for World War II veterans.

The program was a way to show the nation’s and state’s gratitude by transporting U.S. Military veterans of World War II, free of charge, to Washington, D.C., to see the World War II Memorial.

By the time the Honor flights ended six years later, Banz’ organization had paid tribute to 2,055 veterans on 24 flights. Banz obtained commitments and pledges from various individual and corporate donors to raise the money for each flight ahead of time. Korean War veterans were included in some of the later flights when there were extra charter seats available.

Banz was born Dec. 7, 1945, in Sylvia, Kan. He served as a Chaplain’s assistant from 1968 to 1970 with the Army’s 38th Artillery Brigade in Korea. He later was assigned to the U.S. Army Reserve. Banz’s awards include The Army Achievement Medal and Army Commendation Medal.

Banz was a teacher and coach at Putnam City High School, Ada High School and Midwest City High School. He was elected to the Oklahoma Legislature in 2005. He finished his legislative service in 2016 because of term limits.

The Douglas O. Dollar Distinguished Service Award is for service to veterans and is named for Maj. Gen. Dollar, a Vietnam veteran and founder of the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame.

James Johnson Continues Fight Despite Wounds

johnson2Corporal James T. Johnson was born Aug. 16, 1947 in Wynnewood. After his father’s death, he moved to Davis to support his family as an oil field worker.

He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on Dec. 5, 1967, and completed infantry training. He was sent to Vietnam and assigned as an assistant Squad Leader with Co. C, First Battalion, 27th Marines of the 3rd Marine Division.

On June 5, 1968, he earned the Silver Star Medal for Gallantry during a fight with a North Vietnamese Army battalion. Although seriously wounded, Johnson, then a Lance Corporal, ignored his injuries and delivered rapid counter fire on the enemy with his grenade launcher.

His weapon was destroyed in the battle, but Johnson crawled through a hazardous area to a forward machine gun position and fed ammunition into the weapon for the machine gunner until all rounds were exhausted.

Refusing medical treatment, he organized a unit of litter bearers and directed the movement of 13 Marine casualties to relative safety. His heroic and timely actions inspired all who saw him and undoubtedly helped save the lives of several Marines, his Silver Star citation said.

Lowell Jones Wounded in Two Wars

jones2First Lieutenant Lowell E. Jones was born Feb. 8, 1919, in Ada. He enlisted in the Army on Sept. 23, 1941, and served with the 45th Infantry Division in the invasion of Sicily and the invasion of Southern France where he received the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart.

After World War II, Jones served as a Second Lieutenant in the 24th Infantry Division. The division and Jones went to Korea in 1950.

In Korea, Jones’ Infantry Company was receiving heavy machine gun fire from the enemy. With “utter disregard for his own safety,” Jones advanced through the enemy fire to an exposed position and attacked the enemy machine gun position until it was destroyed. He received his first of two Silver Stars for Gallantry in that action.

Three months later, Jones and his company fought a numerically superior North Korean Army force. As the enemy was breaking through part of his platoon’s position, Jones called for close artillery support. During the barrage he moved his troops to a safer place and then exposed himself to redirect artillery fire against the enemy. He was wounded but his leadership was instrumental in the defense of his troops’ position. He earned a second Silver Star for that action and another Purple Heart.

Following the Korea War, Jones went into the Army Reserve, serving as a Master Sergeant. He died in 1998.

Phillip Coon Survivor of Bataan Death March

coon2Corporal Phillip W. Coon, a Muscogee Creek Native American, was born May 28, 1919, in Okemah and is a graduate of Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kan.

He enlisted in the Army on Sept. 20, 1941, and was deployed to Manila in the Philippine Islands. World War II began with the Dec. 7, 1941 attack of Pearl Harbor.

Eventually, American forces on the Bataan Peninsula surrendered to the Japanese. Coon and the others were captured April 11, 1942. He and about 75,000 Filipino and American troops were forced on a 65-mile march to prisoner of war camps. It was the infamous Bataan Death March on which thousands died.

Coon survived and like others was placed in different prison camps. From September 1944 to January 1945, the Japanese moved the prisoners to “hell ships” on which prisoners were taken to Tokyo and then to a POW camp. He and others were subjected to harsh, slave labor conditions.

He was liberated following the Japanese surrender in September 1945. His decorations include the American Defense Service Ribbon, The Asiatic Pacific Campaign Ribbon, the Distinguished Unit Award and the Cross of Valor from the Oklahoma Veterans Commission. (He died June 23, 2014).

Donald Hall Received Silver Stars Rescuing Pilots

hall2Chief Master Sergeant Donald J. Hall, was awarded two Silver Stars, one posthumously. Born March 26, 1937, in Wichita, Kan., Hall was raised in Stroud, graduating from high school there.

He enlisted in the Air Force in 1955 and was trained as a Helicopter Flight Engineer. He also took Tropical Survival School and was sent to Southeast Asia. He was a member of the 38th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron.

On Oct. 5, 1966, Hall and another crew member attempted to rescue a downed American F-4 Phantom jet crew. Numerous attempts failed and on one pass Hall and a crew member were wounded by ground fire. The aircraft’s pilot was ready to abandon the rescue attempt because of the wounded Airmen. Hall, though wounded, insisted he and the other crew member were OK. They made another pass and recovered the F-4 crew.

On Feb. 6, 1967, Hall and a rescue helicopter went to rescue another downed pilot. The weather was foul so they returned to base. Later the same day they returned to rescue the plot. They were hit by heavy ground fire. The helicopter caught fire, lost hydraulic power and spun out of control. Hall and other crew members were killed.

For his bravery, Hall was awarded two Silver Star Medals for Gallantry plus a Purple Heart.

Willard F. Parish in First Major Battle of Vietnam War

parish2Specialist 4 Willard F. Parish was born June 30, 1941, and grew up in Bristow. He entered the Army in November 1963 and trained as a mortarman.

He was awarded the Silver Star for Gallantry in the first major battle in Vietnam between American and North Vietnamese troops. The unit fought in the Ia Drang Valley west of Plei Me at Landing Zone X-Ray on Nov. 14 and 15, 1965. Parish fired an M-60 machine gun during this battle. He would say he looked to the front and “they (the enemy) were growing out of the weeds.”

When he ran out of ammunition, he stood up with a .45-caliber pistol in each hand and continued fighting the enemy force. He was awarded the Silver Star because of his “courage in the face of the enemy, his determination and heroic actions which saved many of his comrades in that area,” his Silver Star citation said. After the Army he was a country and western band leader and worked for the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.

PFC Herman Wallace, Medal of Honor Recipient

wallace2A Marlow native, who was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously during World War II, will be inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame on Oct. 21 in Norman.

Private First Class Herman C. Wallace, who was born in Marlow, Ok., in 1924, was killed on Feb. 27, 1945, when he shielded his fellow soldiers from an exploding mine.

Wallace lived in Texas before the war. He and his family moved from Oklahoma to Texas in 1930 or 1931, for economic reasons, but had deep Oklahoma roots. The family members were farmers, according to a relative.

His parents, Ernest Wallace and Cleatus Shaw, were married in Duncan, Ok. On June 9, 1920. They apparently had lived in Oklahoma some time.

After moving to Texas, Herman Wallace graduated from Lubbock High School and attended Texas Tech University for one year, majoring in engineering.

Wallace joined the Army in 1942 and served in Company B, 301st Engineer Combat Battalion, and 76th Infantry Division. He was killed in action near Prumzurley, Germany while helping clear enemy mines from a road.

Wallace stepped on a well-concealed German S-Type anti-personnel mine. It was called the shrapnel mine or Bouncing Betty because it was thrown into the air, about waist high, and when it exploded it released hundreds of ball bearings, causing many casualties.

Wallace knew falling to the ground in a prone position gave him the best chance to survive, his Medal of Honor citation said. He also knew that doing that would spray the area with fragments and likely kill two of his comrades directly behind him, his citation said. Wallace deliberately put his other foot on the mine and was killed when it exploded.

“Private Wallace was killed when the charge detonated, but his supreme heroism at the cost of his life confined the blast to the ground and his own body and saved his fellow soldiers from death or injury,” his Medal of Honor citation said.

A large installation in the Bad Cannstatt district of Stuttgart, Germany, originally built by Germany, was occupied by American troops after the War. It was named Wallace Barracks in honor of Wallace.

COL William H. Talley, Vietnam War POW


Colonel William H. Talley was born 26 November 1932 and raised in Sayre, Oklahoma. He is a 1955 graduate of Oklahoma A&M College (now Oklahoma State University) in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He earned his commission into the U.S. Air Force through the Reserve Officer Training Corps on 28 May 1955. Talley was awarded his pilot wings upon completion of Undergraduate Pilot Training at Webb Air Force Base, Texas, in September 1956. After completing Advanced Fighter Training and Reconnaissance School, he was assigned to the 29th, 20th, and 17th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadrons (TRS) at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

In May 1959, Talley deployed with the 17th TRS to Laon, France. He returned to the states in June 1962 and was assigned as an instructor pilot with the 3575th Pilot Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma. In October 1966, he was assigned to Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas as a flight test maintenance officer. Talley completed F-105 Thunderchief Combat Crew Training and Wild Weasel Training before being deployed to Southeast Asia in January 1969. Talley flew 151 combat missions as an F-105 pilot with the 44th Tactical Fighter Squadron out of Korat Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand.

Returning to the states in November 1969, Talley was assigned to McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, as an F-105 instructor pilot and later as an F-105G pilot with the 561st Tactical Fighter Squadron. While deployed on temporary duty with the 17th Wild Weasel Squadron, 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, in Southeast Asia, he flew 31 combat missions. He received a Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor for actions while flying his F-105G Wild Weasel on 21 April 1972 in support of F-4 air strikes against a strategic target. Suppressing hostile enemy surface-to-air missile sites and radar controlled antiaircraft artillery batteries, he enabled the F-4’s to destroy their targets and egress safely. Then on 11 May 1972, while on another Wild Weasel mission in support of Operation Linebacker, Talley and his Electronics Warfare Officer were shot down by a MIG near Hanoi. They evaded North Vietnamese Army search parties for about eighteen hours, but were subsequently captured and taken as Prisoners of War to the “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp. Talley spent 322 days in harsh captivity and was released during Operation Homecoming on 28 March 1973.

Upon return to the states, Talley earned his MBA at the University of Oklahoma and then attended Air War College graduating in June 1976. He was then assigned as Deputy Commander, 35th Combat Support Group, George Air Force Base, California. In May 1978 he returned to Oklahoma assigned to Tinker Air Force Base as the Chief of Weapons Systems and Major Equipment Division under the Directorate of Contracting and Manufacturing, Oklahoma Air Logistics Center. His decorations include the Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Cross Medals with Valor, Bronze Star Medal with Valor, and the Purple Heart Medal. Talley retired on 1 December 1981.


LTC Joel Boyd Remembered by ROTC Alumni

LTC Joel Boyd

For countless alumni of Oklahoma’s ROTC programs, certain cadre are warmly remembered as role models and mentors — perhaps in some cases as often demanding task-masters.

One such case is found in the person of Lt. Col. Joel Boyd, who is remembered in the above manner by OSU Scabbard and Blade and Army Blades alumni of the mid-1970s. Meeting back on the OSU campus this September, they took up a collection in his memory to help send cadets to this years Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame and to pay for some sort of memorial in the Thatcher Hall cadet lounge.

Through 21 years of service in the U.S. Army and 25 years in his second career in education, Joel saw much of the country and world, but remained a proud Okie his entire life. He served his country in Vietnam, earning the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, and retired in 1984 as a Lieutenant Colonel.

An ardent student of history, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Oklahoma State University.

Joel died at age 73 on March 1, 2015. He was preceded in death by his parents, Joe and Ioma Boyd.  He is survived by his loving wife, Pamela; two sons, Sean and Colin; former wife, Donna Boyd; step children, Jennifer Lestino, Matt Taylor; and six grandchildren.

Clearly, he will always be remembered affectionately by the students he influenced as a Scabbard and Blade advisor and ROTC instructor.


OSU 1972-1976 Scabbard and Blade and Army Blades alumni in Stillwater observing their second reunion leave memorials for a long-remembered mentor, LTC Joel Boyd.

OSU Army Blades and Scabbard and Blade Reunion

Friends from over the nation gathered September 15 through 18 in Stillwater for their second reunion of OSU Army Blades and Scabbard and Blade members of the organizations during the period 1972-1976.

The Army Blades was formed at OSU through Scabbard and Blade as an ROTC support group and drill team. Oklahoma’s current governor, Mary Fallin, was a member. The group is active today on the campus, but no longer as a drill team.

Nancy Houston Beckstrom, fifth from right, guides her Army Blades and Scabbard and Blade friends through an OSU ROTC exhibit in Stillwater’s Sheerar Museum. The occasion helped mark their second reunion, recalling their days together at OSU in the mid 1970s. From left to right are Mike and Mary Eichinger, Teri Chapin, Cindy Jordan Ballard, Phil Boykin, Donna Boyd, Nancy, Sheila and Dale Mitchell, Dudley Freeman, and Dusty Rhodes.