VICI - Area resident Bill Salisbury, 89, was aboard an Oklahoma Honor Flight (OHF) that visited Washington, D.C. earlier this month.
Officials with the Honor Flight organization said the flights were started to assure each veteran of World War II got to visit the memorial to the second great war before they died.
A Navy veteran, Salisbury said he didn't know anything about Oklahoma Honor Flights until someone from the organization contacted him about participating.
"I don't know how they found me," Salisbury said.
But trip coordinator and OHF board member Linda Banz said someone must have submitted his name, as each participant has to register.
While surprised by the call from Oklahoma Honor Flights, Salisbury gladly accepted the offer to be flown to see the memorial to the service that he and thousands of other young men gave during World War II.
Following graduation from Taloga High School in 1941, Salisbury journeyed to California, where he worked on the building of B-17 Flying Fortress bombers. He spent about a year and a half doing that, before enlisting in the Navy.
He spent 3 years and 3 months in the Navy as a fighter plane mechanic. His served aboard an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean, where his duties included warming up the fighter planes before takeoff.
After his service concluded in 1946, Salisbury returned to the tri-state area and spent about a year and a half working cattle and performing other related duties at a ranch near Perryton, Texas.
He then used his GI Bill benefits to attend what was then Oklahoma A&M University at Stillwater, where he earned his degree in agriculture education.
Salisbury was then paid by the government to teach agriculture education at a high school in Stratford, Texas.
He met wife Nancy there, and they subsequently moved to his native Vici, where he taught agriculture education for 23 years. He retired in 1980.
Since then, he has managed a few cattle from his home on land southeast of Vici.
AN EARLY START
Salisbury and wife Nancy went to Lawton the night before his flight was to leave from there for the flight to D.C.
"I found out later that Nancy could have gone," Salisbury said.
Instead, she stayed in Lawton to greet her husband when he returned from the busy day.
Salisbury and 92 other Oklahoma veterans took to the air just after 5 a.m. on Saturday, May 4, he said.
"We flew on a Miami Airlines Boeing 737," Bill said. "I had never heard of Miami Airlines."
They had breakfast on the plane, before landing at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Then it was about an hour ride into the nation's capital itself aboard 3 buses, with lunch served while riding on them, he said.
Their first stop was the awe-inspiring World War II memorial, which was dedicated in 2004.
"It's a circular building," Bill said. "It features columns for all the states. We laid a wreath at the Oklahoma column."
What followed were quick visits to the Lincoln, Vietnam, Iwo Jima and Korean memorials.
"We thought we might get to go into the White House, but we didn't," Bill said with a laugh.
Salisbury said he had been to the capital city once before, back in 1952 when a brother was stationed in nearby Maryland.
"It was on a Sunday and everything was closed," he said. "So we just drove around."
THE CHANGING OF GUARD
The day concluded by witnessing the precision routine involved with the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery.
Bill explained that each armed service rotates the conducting of the change ceremony, and on his visit, he was delighted that it was his U.S. Navy doing the honors.
After the guard change was completed, it was back to the airport and onto the airliner again for the return trip.
MORE HONOR FLIGHTS COMING
The Oklahoma Honor Flight program costs the veterans nothing. The veterans may have their wives or an escort accompany them on the trip for a fee.
Banz said this trip cost $70,000 and it was paid for by a Southwestern Oklahoma veteran who went to towns around the area recruiting World War II servicemen to register for the journey.
Salisbury said that region is where most of his fellow travelers were from.
GETTING ON WAITING LIST ENCOURAGED
Banz said there is a waiting list for future trips, but she urged World War II veterans to sign up to be on that list by going to oklahomahonorflights.org to assure they have a chance to see the memorial. Or call her for more information at (405) 259-9000.
"I'm glad I got to see it," Bill said of the World War II memorial.
He added that he enjoyed the trip as a whole.
"I liked seeing everything there," he said. "It meant the reviving of a lot of memories."
Woodward veteran Albert Williams made the trip in 2010, and like Salisbury, said he enjoyed it very much.