Claremore Daily Progress

June 16, 2011

Daughter reflects on Honor Flights trip with WW2 vet dad

Larry Larkin (as told by Susan Smith)
Progress Correspondent

CLAREMORE — (Writer’s Note:  As soon as my sister Susan was big enough to walk she would follow our father around like a shadow.  If he was going somewhere she wanted to go, too.  He always took her when possible.  Last week William C. Larkin was among the 104 World War II veterans invited to join the Oklahoma Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.

Once again she was able to tag along.  This article is the first of a three-part series with her telling the events of their trip.)

Preparing For Departure

Excited and anxious are only two ways to explain how I felt after learning I would be accompanying my father to Washington, D.C.  Even so, little did I know how much the trip would mean to both of us.

Daddy was one of the 104 WWII veterans that would be on the first Oklahoma Honor Flight from Tulsa.  With these gentlemen and two ladies, now all in their 80s and 90s and some having trouble walking, several guardians would be needed.  That’s where I fit in.

The trip was scheduled for Wednesday.  Like all the others we were “ordered to report” the night before.  A special program to honor and individually introduce the Vets was held in the flag filled Owasso Performing Arts Center.  It was a special night for all present.

The center was packed with family members and friends.  Many others with no direct connection to the honorees were also present.  They also wanted to show their appreciation for what this group had done 60-plus years before.

Each veteran was escorted to their seat by a member of the Thunderbird Academy.  The cadets then remained for the program, seated to the veteran’s right.  Looking at each pair I wondered how many of us realized the veterans were not much older than the cadets are now when they left for war.

Each veteran was introduced and stood up as their name, branch of service, and where he or she served was read aloud and presented on a large screen.  Being the daughter AND mother of a Marine, I couldn’t help counting how many were present.  There were 10 Marines overall.

Prior to the program all the guardians had an hour training session.  We were told what we would be in store during the trip and what we could expect.  One of the main things stressed was to keep the veterans well hydrated.  Water bottles would be available all day.

We were given bags that contained name tags and two shirts and ball caps embroidered with the OHF emblem.  Blue shirts were for the veterans and red ones for the guardians.  I guess this made it easier to tell us apart.

All of the veterans did not need personal guardians.  Among the approximately 69 guardians, 12 of us were females. 

We were told there would be three buses taking us to and from the airport, and three more in the Capital for our sightseeing tour.  The buses were listed as Red, White, and Blue.  Our name tags indicated which bus we needed to be on.

Because we were appointed to Red, our bus would always to the first in line.

Two medical personnel members were on each bus.  As far as I know their services were not needed.

Apparently in true military fashion, the buses were scheduled to leave for the airport at 4 a.m.  Our point of deployment was the parking lot of an Owasso hotel.  Like so many others, Daddy and I had a room reserved to allow an extra 30 minutes of sleep.

While Daddy assured me he would wake up in time, to be on the safe side I requested a 3:15 a.m. wake-up call.  (I didn’t even know there was such a time prior to this).

Sure enough, he was up at 3:05 and ready to go.

Somehow I got ready too and we walked into the lobby right on time.  Instead of wearing the optional blue cap given to him, Daddy elected to wear his red 3rd Division Marine one.  This choice will have a special meaning to him later in the day.

Following a breakfast of donuts and coffee, we loaded up on the three buses out front.

Our trip had begun.

(Part II: Arriving in the Nation’s Capital)