The first community-wide Honors Campaign was launched May 8 by the Newkirk 4-H Club when an initial 8 of 26 local veteran volunteers participated in round one of interviews.
An Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame ambassador who met with the participating 4-H members the day before used the example of an Airborne paratrooper to illustrate what they might encounter when interviewing local veterans. When the speaker pointed out that the 4-H participants role was similar to airborne “Pathfinders” for the Honors Campaign, the youngsters liked the comparison so much that it was decided they would officially be called Pathfinders in the program.
Of those interviewed May 8, one was a WWII veteran and the rest were Vietnam era vets. A majority of those interviewed the first day were combat veterans. The next round of interviews is scheduled for June 13, according to volunteers working on the campaign.
Participating veterans previously had been given handouts explaining the nature of the Honors Campaign program along with the interview questions. Each veteran will receive a CD containing the video-recorded interview to share with family and friends. Follow up sessions will involve the young 4-Hers in discussions of what they learned in the process and what is involved in military service.
A community event is planned at the end of the summer to recognize the 4-H members and the veterans.
The northern Oklahoma town of Newkirk is likely one of the
most patriotic communities in the nation, at least based upon the activities of
a number of the residents there. An example of one such activity is
participation by a group of young 4-H club members in what is known as an
The Honors Campaign Program was launched by the Oklahoma
Military Hall of Fame to recognize greater numbers of veterans across the state
and to help Oklahoma’s youth better understand what it means to serve our
nation through military service.
“I am really excited about this project,” noted Karen Dye, a
local historian and key mover and shaker for the effort. “I think it is
important to connect our students with men and women who protected our country.
It is quite possible they may each have a relative that served in this
capacity. When we did a presentation on the land run, we found that to be the
Dye added that if the number of potential interviews becomes
too much for the 4-H club’s 6th through 8th graders,
other youth from Newkirk’s Jed Cord Students club 9th through 12th
graders may be recruited to help out.
“The club was named after a great young man from Newkirk,
Jed Hartley, who died in Iraq serving in the US Army,” said Dye, adding, “Club
members pledge to contribute 100 hours of community service during their high
2019 is the Honors Campaign “pilot” year and so
far Memorial and Booker T. Washington High Schools in Tulsa are also participating
through the Junior ROTC programs there. The 4-H club in Newkirk is planning for
this to be a community-wide effort carried out this summer. All veterans are
being identified for video interviews by the 4-Hers.
Librarian Marcina Overman has offered the use of Newkirk’s
public library facilities to host the student/veteran interviews, which could
number quite a few. The video-recorded interviews will be given to the veterans
as well as featured on a new internet site established by the Oklahoma Military
Hall of Fame.
Other communities are invited to become involved this year,
and Honors Campaign planners prepared this message as the first of a series of
newsletters to go to key participants, and with your permission will include
you in the recipient list. Thank you for your interest. Below is a description
of the Honors Campaign program from the web site www.okhonorscampaigns.org:
“Honors Campaigns are special community-based efforts to recognize local military veterans that are organized and managed by middle- and high-school students. Supported by the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame through its Ambassador program, an individual student, or a group such as a classroom, a 4-H or similar club, plans and carries the campaign through to its completion. A campaign may range from a single student interviewing a veteran, perhaps a family member, to a special recognition ceremony for veterans complete with book-length publications and internet sites. Awards and other recognition are presented to students for their work.”
Sgt. 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.
Corporal 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.
First 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.
Corporal 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).
Chief 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.
Specialist 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.
Oklahoma's Youth Honoring their State's Military Veterans