The Oklahoma Farming and Ranching Foundation will sponsor one of the final Oklahoma Honor Flights, departing from Midwest City, Oklahoma, on Oct. 21.
Oklahoma Honor Flights has served Oklahoma World War II veterans for the past six years by transporting them to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorials dedicated to honor their service and sacrifice. After offering 20 flights for the state’s veterans, the program is nearing the end of its mission.
“Our purpose from the very beginning has been to address the WWII guys because, unless somebody acted on their behalf, they would never see the memorial,” said Gary Banz, executive director of Oklahoma Honor Flights. “It was built six decades after their service and by the time it was built and dedicated in 2004, most of them were well into their retirement years and for the most part had no thoughts of traveling – especially just to go see their memorial.”
In addition to the flight, the Foundation is sponsoring two Oklahoma WWII veterans, who returned home from their service and devoted their lives to production agriculture.
“These gentlemen have served our country well, through their military service and their lifelong dedication to producing food and fiber,” said Jeramy Rich, president of the Oklahoma Farming and Ranching Foundation.
John Irick was born on a farm in Texas and moved to central Oklahoma at the age of five. He joined the Army and was drafted into service in April 1945, achieving the rank of P-4 Tech Sergeant and serving as a demolition specialist.
“My time in the service helped me to understand more about people from all backgrounds and that has been a great benefit to me in many experiences,” Irick said.
Following his service, Irick attended Okmulgee Technical College to become an electrician. He began working in the oilfield in 1959, while raising cattle and operating a dairy on his farm in Paden, Oklahoma.
Today, at the age of 90, Irick is still actively involved with his livestock, and even checks some wells when he is needed.
Gerald Turner, a lifetime resident of Pawnee, Oklahoma, has been involved in agriculture his entire life. During WWII, he volunteered to join the American forces. He served as a Sargent in the Army Air Corps, working as an aircraft mechanic, a B-17G crew chief and guarding German prisoners of war.
Turner returned home from his service and married his wife Ella Mae in 1954. They raised five children on the family farm where they still raise cattle and grow feed crops today.
The strong work ethic he displayed in service to his country served Turner well upon his return home. His success in agriculture did not come without sacrifice.
“I always had a job off the farm to help make the land payments,” Turner said.
He continues to stay as active as he can on the family farm, feeding cattle and even riding the tractor on occasion when he feels up to it.
In 2012, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers recognized him as the Lifetime Legacy Award recipient, honoring his life of exemplary character for young agriculturalists to follow.
Turner said he views the Oklahoma Honor Flight as a trip of a lifetime.
“I’m just thrilled,” Turner said. “I am really looking forward to it.”
The Foundation is proud to support these men who have served their country so faithfully, Rich said.
“Our veterans embody the values of agriculturalists and rural Oklahomans,” Rich said. “They have worked hard, loved their country, and have had a strong desire to give back to the land that has provided so many opportunities for them.”
For more information about Oklahoma Honor Flights, please click here.