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Five photos from the Oct. 21 Honor Flight to DC

WASHINGTON _ Many Oklahomans have come to know Gary Banz, the Midwest City veteran and state lawmaker who, with his wife, Linda, have dedicated a huge part of the last five years to ensuring World War II vets in Oklahoma got to see their memorial on the National Mall.

Banz was back in Washington on Wednesday with a group of 81 veterans on the 22nd Honor Flight from Oklahoma. It was the last trip that will use a chartered airplane. The next Honor Flight will have a much smaller group of vets and fly commercially.

Banz has run the Oklahoma program since its inception.

The whole idea of honoring World War II vets by bringing them to the memorial started with Earl Morse, a retired Air Force captain. Morse, a doctor, was treating veterans  at an Air Force base in Ohio when he realized that the World War II vets would probably never get to see the memorial.

He and a group of pilot friends set out to change that in 2005. By the end of this year, 150,000 veterans will have visited the DC war memorials because of Honor Flights _ 2,008 from Oklahoma.

Morse, who now lives in Maine, was at the World War II Memorial on Wednesday when the Oklahomans visited.

He is on the left in the picture below with Banz, who has made all of the Oklahoma trips.

Members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation always greet the veterans. Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, and James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, almost never miss an Honor Flight. Freshman Rep. Steve Russell, a retired U.S. Army officer, has been a regular. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Westville, actually came to an Honor Flight before he was in Congress. He was his grandfather's guide on the very first flight from Oklahoma in 2010.

Below, from left, Reps. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, Russell, Mullin and Inhofe talk to Banz shortly after the Honor Flight arrived Wednesday at the WWII Memorial.

One of the veterans on the trip was Ray Riley, who turned 100 last month. Riley served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, according to his guide, Patricia Word, of Bethany. Below, Lankford talks to Riley; Word is behind Riley.

Veterans from the state often take pictures at the Oklahoma column of the WWII Memorial, below.

Among the 54 Korean vets on the flight were Joe and Shirley Stie, of Jenks. The Sties were both serving in the Air Force when they met at Barksdale AFB in Louisiana. They posed at the World War II Memorial, below.

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Chris Casteel

Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. Casteel covered the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City. From 1990 through 2016, he was the... Read more ›