Eight Montereau residents had one of the most memorable and action-packed days of their lives in October. They all took part in the Oklahoma Arkansas Honor Flight, which takes veterans to the nation’s capital to visit war memorials at no cost to them.
Although exhausting, US Navy Veteran Julius Stevak said it was well worth the journey.
“I’d recommend the Honor Flight to all veterans because it was such a humbling experience,” he explained.
It’s been a long time since Julius served in the Korean War, but that day brought all the memories back.
“I spent my time on a ship in the Atlantic looking for submarines,” he said.
Julius was joined by 73 other veterans, including Montereau residents Chuck Scott, Don Bugh, Bette Hill, Rob Denzinger, Bob Rieck, Ken Finch and Jim Grosserode. Some veterans served in World War II, others in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. They were all accompanied by guardians who helped them throughout the day.
Chuck is a US Air Force veteran who served in the Korean War. He said the trip was nothing short of remarkable.
“Various veterans had different roles in all these wars, some were in combat, some were support and even though you didn’t fight or see action, being able to go on this is a very rewarding experience,” Chuck said.
Julius says although worried about how tiring the day would be, as head of the Veterans Committee at Montereau, he sent in an application.
He and the others who were selected received a phone call letting them know they were bound for Washington D.C.
Chuck says in the days leading up to the trip, he tried to get as much rest as he could, but nothing could prepare him for what was ahead.
The night before the flight, all of the veterans attended a send-off at the Mabee Center at Oral Roberts University. They all stayed at a nearby hotel before waking up at 3:30 a.m. to head to the Tulsa International Airport. After a short flight to Washington D.C., they hit the ground running, going to seven memorials.
Julius says visiting the memorials was very emotional. He enjoyed World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War memorials the most.
“Veterans aren’t used to being the center of attention, but that day we were,” he said.
The best part of Chuck’s day was getting a surprise visit from his daughter, who lives in Virginia.
“She surprised me at the World War Two Memorial,” he said. “She drove up with her girlfriend.”
Chuck served in the Air Force from December 1951 to September 1956. He worked as a special agent with the Office of Special Investigations. He spent one year stationed overseas at a secret airbase in Thule, Greenland, just 800 miles from Antarctica.
He says the Honor Flight brought back many memories and the trip gave him an overwhelming feeling of patriotism. As the day came to a close, the veterans made their way to the airport for the final leg of the trip back home to Tulsa.
Even though it was a busy day, Julius said the experience was so surreal that he didn’t even sleep on the plane ride back to Tulsa. Instead, he and many others continued sharing war stories.
One of their favorite parts of the day happened on the plane ride back when the Honor Flight organizers reinacted an old-fashioned mail call, delivering mail to each veteran. They were all handed a stack of letters which were written by children in the Tulsa area.
Along with thanking veterans for their service. One fifth grader wrote, “Is it true that in Vietnam, you guys got to listen to hard rock music and was it cool in Vietnam?”
After reading through their letters, the flight arrived in Tulsa around 9 p.m. and the group of veterans were greeted by almost 500 people at the airport welcoming them home.
“When I came home, I collapsed,” Julius said.
All of the veterans who attended the Honor Flight were honored at Montereau’s Veterans Day breakfast and ceremony on November 11. Bette Hill was featured in the Tulsa World and on KTUL Channel 8.
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