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Veterans Tell Their Stories – A Message to Oklahoma Veterans Organizations

The Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame is excited to announce the 2021 Oklahoma Veterans Film Contest!

The Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame (OKMHF) and the Oklahoma Career Tech Centers (AKA VoTech) have partnered to provide an opportunity for Veterans to “tell their story” of military service for the record. The initiative will document their experiences on video, produced and directed by the State’s Technical Centers. Students at those Centers across the State will conduct filmed interviews and produce finished products for entry in the statewide Veterans Film competition. The OKMHF will recognize the winners and award cash prizes. This inaugural competition will begin with this school year and run until the end of the semester. It is anticipated that this initiative will continue in the coming years.

A copy of the final Technical Center’s veteran’s interview will be entered on the OKMHF’s Oklahoma Honors Campaign website, and a copy of the full interview will be provided to participating veterans for their personal use.

A promotional video explaining this initiative is attached with this message.

So, what would be your role in this initiative? First, I hope that you would enthusiastically support this opportunity for your veterans to “tell their story.” Every veteran has a unique story to tell. If they don’t tell their story, it never happened. That seems be a wasted opportunity, not only for the veteran, but likely also for their family as well. How many of us wish that we had taken the opportunity to discuss the military experiences of our relatives while they were still with us? This effort takes a step in the right direction to make sure that families don’t have to wonder what their veteran did while serving their country.

Second, as Veteran Service Organizations (VSO), we have direct access to the veterans who make up our membership. One of the challenges in this project is bringing together veterans and the students who will conduct the interviews. We hope that you will announce to your state organizations (posts) this initiative and encourage them to participate. That should take care of the identification of veterans willing to take part. At the local level, posts could develop lists and contact information and exchange the information with adjacent Technology Centers on demand. We have identified to Technical Centers that local VSOs are a valuable resource for veteran-related matters, including this effort. The concept is that the interviews will be conducted at the local level, between organizations such as your posts and the nearest Technical Centers (students).

Third, with respect to the Technical Center students who will be conducting the interviews. Many of these students have a limited base of knowledge concerning what military service is all about. They will be provided some basic knowledge and standard military-oriented interview questions to guide them. Nevertheless, your organizations (veterans) may be able to supplement or clarify aspects of military service as the need arises. Additionally, one of the key aspects of student participation is that they will not incur costs. For that reason, student travel will be minimized (i.e. no travel outside the local Technical Center area to distant locations to conduct an interview). Because the Technical Centers are well equipped for video recording and have appropriate facilities for interviewing, it is envisioned that interviews will normally be conducted on site.

As the Technical Centers are in the process of spreading the word to their instructors, it is preferable that your organization get “in the loop” ASAP so that you will not be getting a “cold call” from a Technical Center or student asking you to identify a veteran for them to interview. It would be awkward for your representatives to have no earthly idea what they were talking about. In truth, I believe there is still time to organize before calls begin coming in. Organize now (identify willing veterans) and wait for the call to come later.

Click here to learn how this effort helps veterans “tell their story.”

Please contact us at [email protected], or call 405-269-2251, to verify your organization’s support of this program.

Thanks in advance for helping Oklahoma veterans tell their stories!

Robert S. Cox, Legionnaire, AL Post 129


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.

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.

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.

OSU Air Force ROTC Grads Serve in War and Peace

Captain Neil Bynum

In its long history, Oklahoma State University’s Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Program (ROTC) has produced many great leaders including some who were POWs in North Vietnam and one who was missing in action but will never be forgotten.

The OSU ROTC program and alumni and other ROTC programs in Oklahoma will be inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame on Oct. 21 at the Embassy Suites Hilton in Norman. During the banquet, a ceremony will be held to recognize and remember America’s Prisoners of Wars and those listed as Missing in Action (MIAs). A missing man table will be set up with six empty chairs representing Americans from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard and civilians who were or are missing. Captain Neil Stanley “Cherokee” Bynum, a native of Vian, is OSU’s MIA.

He was a Weapons System Operator riding in the back seat of a plane piloted by Captain Gray Warren on Oct. 26, 1969. The aircraft crashed. Gray was reclassified from MIA to killed in action on Oct. 26th. Bynum was continued in MIA status until May 13, 1976, when the Secretary of the Air Force approved a “Presumptive Finding” of death.

The former ROTC graduates who were POWs are: Lt. Col. William Schwertfeger, who was born in Enid and grew up in Medford; and Col. William H. “Bill” Talley, who was born in Sayre. One other former POW is Lt. Col. Dick Francis, who graduated from OSU but was not in ROTC.

Lt. Col. William Schwertfeger
Col William H Talley
Col. William Talley
Lt. Col. Dick Francis

Schwertfeger received three Silver Stars. One was for leading an air strike force deep into hostile territory Feb. 16, 1972. He flew through anti-aircraft fire for more than two hours, locating targets and directing air strikes. He was honored in 2015 as OSU Alumni of the Year. He also is being honored this month as 2017 Air Force ROTC Alumni of the year.

Talley flew 151 combat missions in Vietnam. On May 11, 1972, he was forced to eject over enemy territory. He was a POW for 322 days before repatriation on March 28, 1973.

Talley was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses for Valor. One was for suppressing enemy surface-to-air missile sites and radar controlled antiaircraft artillery on April 21, 1972. He repeatedly attacked the sites to protect an American air strike force. He remained in the area after he used all his ammunition.

Francis was shot down over North Vietnam on May 11, 1972, and held prisoner for 275 days. Francis was awarded The Silver Star for leading a flight on a special combat mission over Hanoi, North Vietnam.

Other notable OSU ROTC graduates are Maj. Gen. S.T. Ayers and Ray Booker.

Maj. Gen. S. T. Ayers

Ayers graduated from Arkansas Polytechnic University in 1942 and Oklahoma A&M(now OSU) in 1951. He is one of the people who helped found the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame, said Maj. Gen. Douglas O. Dollar, who is a founder of the organization.

Ayers enlisted in the Air Force Reserve in 1943 and was called to active duty in 1944.He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1950. He served as mobilization assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics and Engineering at the Pentagon. He also served as a mobilization assistant for to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics and Engineering at the Pentagon. He also had a career in petroleum geology.

Ray Booker

Booker graduated from Oklahoma A&M in 1957 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He is founder of Aeromet, Inc. and Aviation Technologies in Tulsa. Now retired, he was a certified Airline Transport Pilot. He was a cadet in Air Force ROTC at OSU and was inducted into the OSU Alumni Hall of Fame in 2012. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and attended Pennsylvania State University where he received a master’s degree in 1962 and a Ph.D., both in meteorology.


Army General Graduated from UCO’s ROTC program

Brig. Gen. Alicia A. Tate-Nadeau

EDMOND — For 47 years, the University of Central Oklahoma has produced military leaders through the Reserve Officer Training Corps, including a woman who is a brigadier general and an inductee in the inaugural class of the ROTC Hall of Fame at Fort Knox, Ky.

Brig. Gen. Alicia A. Tate-Nadeau, an Enid native and graduate of the University of Central Oklahoma, was commissioned through the ROTC program as an Army lieutenant in 1986. She currently is assistant adjutant general in the Illinois National Guard.

She is one of five Oklahomans inducted June 10 into the national ROTC Hall of Fame. The others are H.E. Gene Rainbolt, an Oklahoma banker from Oklahoma City and 1952 University of Oklahoma ROTC graduate; Maj. Gen. Douglas O. Dollar, Stillwater, a 1967 Oklahoma State University ROTC graduate; Col. Henry O. Tuell III, a 1968 ROTC graduate of OU; and OSU President Burns Hargis, a 1970 ROTC graduate of OSU.

UCO’s ROTC program has been commissioning between 12 to 15 ROTC cadets annually, said Daryl Shryock, human resources administrator for the military science (ROTC) department since 2000. He has more than 28 years of military experience as a commissioned officer.

Like many colleges and universities, UCO offers students at other area universities the opportunity to be in the ROTC program.

Schools whose students can attend ROTC classes at UCO include Oklahoma City University, Southern Nazarene University, Langston University, Oklahoma Christian University and Southwestern Christian University.

Lt. Meagan Green is a Southern Nazarene University graduate who attended ROTC at UCO where she received her commission.

Students like herself commuted to UCO for the ROTC classes, she said.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of ROTC in America and Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame will honor ROTC programs and their alumni at the Military Hall of Fame banquet Oct. 21 at Embassy Suites in Norman.

Maj. Gen. Dollar, founder of the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame, has established a website for ROTC alumni to obtain more information and register to be recognized for their services.


OSU’s Army ROTC First in State

ROTC100logo2The Reserve Officer Training Corps was created nationally in 1916 and Oklahoma A&M College (now Oklahoma State University) wasted little time establishing an Army ROTC program in the same year on the Stillwater, Ok., campus.

Before ROTC, many colleges organized under the 1862 land grant federal legislation, including Oklahoma A&M, had some military instruction, but the National Defense Act of 1916 that created ROTC nationally was more widespread. It also expanded the Army and National Guard, and created an Officers’ and Enlisted Reserve Corps, as well as ROTC.

In the past 100 years of ROTC, OSU has produced many notable officers including many who are in the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame, which was founded in 1999. ROTC graduates include OSU President Burns Hargis, who was in Air Force and Army ROTC while a student at OSU.

Hargis was in ROTC from 1963-67. He was commissioned in 1970 and served as an Army Finance Officer in the 95th Division (Training) and reached the rank of Captain. His service ended in 1976.

“I appreciate my time in ROTC. My service helped to shape me and prepare me for a rewarding career that has crossed many fields, Hargis said. “ROTC instills the attributes of duty, loyalty, teamwork, honor and service.

“Those are the values one learns through ROTC and have served me throughout my life.”

This year the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame, founded in 1999 by Stillwater’s Maj. Gen. Douglas O. Dollar, will honor Oklahoma ROTC programs and alumni at its Hall of Fame banquet Oct. 21 at the Embassy Suites in Norman. Because this is the ROTC Centennial, Dollar, an ROTC graduate from OSU, wants to honor as many Oklahoma ROTC alumni as possible. Dollar has set up a website for the event,

Also this year Hargis and Dollar were selected for induction into the Army’s ROTC National Hall of Fame at Fort Knox, KY.

Henry Bellmon while serving as Oklahoma Governor

Another notable Oklahoman—former Gov. Henry Bellmon—attended OSU when students had to attend the mandatory two-year ROTC program. Upon graduation in 1942, Bellmon, who would be Oklahoma’s governor twice and a U.S. Senator, volunteered for the Marine Corps. He served in the Pacific during the war and was awarded the Silver Star for Valor during the battle for Iwo Jima, probably the bloodiest battle in Marine Corps history.

Lt. Gen. George Price Hays

A Medal of Honor recipient, Price Hays attended then Oklahoma A&M from 1914 to 1917 and participated in the Student Army Training Corps. After graduation Hays joined the Army and was commissioned a second lieutenant. While serving as an artillery officer in France in World War I, he earned the Medal of Honor. On July 14, 1918, Germany artillery fire destroyed American communication lines. Hays rode on horseback between his unit, the command post and two French artillery batteries the rest of that day and the next. Seven horses were shot out from under him in the battle and he was severely wounded. His efforts stopped the German advance, his Medal of Honor citation said.

He served again in World War II in Europe, and organized and was the first commanding general of the Army’s famed 10th Mountain Division, and retired later as a Lieutenant General.

Bellmon and Hays, along with 15 other OSU ROTC alumni, are in the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame.

Another OSU graduate who played baseball for the Cowboys is Lieutenant General Jerry Max Bunyard, a native of Altus. He was commander of the Army’s 1st Aerial Rocket Battalion in Vietnam. Commissioned in 1968 as a second lieutenant in field artillery at OSU, Randal Rigby eventually became the Army’s chief of artillery and ultimately retired as a lieutenant general. It is estimated that more than 90 OSU graduates have attained the rank of general officer.

Col. William A. Ahrberg, a member of the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame, not only attended ROTC but came back from the Korean War and taught ROTC at OSU.