TULSA, Okla. — Oklahoma veterans are headed to the nation’s Capitol.
It was a party in terminal B at the Tulsa International Airport Wednesday afternoon as 55 veterans and guests waited for their flight to Washington, D.C. for the Northeast Oklahoma Veteran Freedom Tour.
Before the airport, they left from Pryor, where citizens lined the street to send them off. Once in the Capitol, they’ll tour memorials, Arlington National Cemetery and Mount Vernon.
“Some of them want to go see these things because it represents what they fought for and what they did for us, but for the most part, it’s really being a family and a community with each other," said Zac Doyle, vice president of Northeast Oklahoma Veteran Freedom Tours.
The group raised about $35,000 for the trip. It’s their fourth attempt at going to D.C. after the previous trips were postponed due to COVID-19. The group said it's one of the first groups of veterans to fly out of Tulsa since the pandemic began.
Henry Ward said he’s looking forward to getting to know other veterans on the trip.
“Some of them were there the same time I was in Vietnam," Ward said. "And did their tours the same years and around the same age."
The freedom tour is different from an honor flight, which is usually for veterans from older eras. This trip is for all veterans, like Brandon Jones, who served in Afghanistan. Jones went with the group to Vicksburg, MS a year and a half ago and found a place he could fit in after suffering anxiety from his service.
“I opened up a little bit more with some other combat vets and it helped me kind of feel more comfortable talking about certain things that were kind of hard for me to talk about," Jones said.
Jones is bringing his father to D.C. while Ward is bringing his son, Marty. It gives them a chance to bond. For the veterans, it also is a chance to share a part of their life with their loved ones.
“Tomorrow’s never guaranteed," Marty said. "Every day I can spend with my dad is one for the books right there.”
Excitement builds for the days ahead as the group prepares for takeoff. A trip that honors those who sacrificed for their country.
“We just don’t give them enough credit," Marty said. "We take our freedoms for granted, I think sometimes. And they’re the reason why we have those freedoms, you know. They gave so we could have. It’s time to give back.”
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