With groundbreaking for a permanent memorial for the USS Oklahoma slated for next month in Hawaii, the fundraising effort is now in full swing. As he pledged last May, Gov. Brad Henry presented a check from the Centennial Commission for $100,000 for the memorial at a State Capitol ceremony on Tuesday. The USS Oklahoma had the second-highest casualty rate of any American ship in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
“As we memorialize Oklahoma’s first hundred years, it is very fitting that we also remember this pivotal time in the history of our nation and the world. We must always remember the 429 souls who died on the ship named for our state, and those who survived and have fought to create a permanent memorial for their shipmates,” Henry said. “I am honored to be a part of this effort, and I call on all Oklahomans to help the families and survivors of the USS Oklahoma.” Henry’s wife, first lady Kim Henry, has agreed to serve as fundraising co-chair for the memorial.
Henry presented the check to Paul Goodyear of Arizona, head of the USS Oklahoma survivors and family organization. Goodyear thanked the governor, as well as Congressman Tom Cole who authored the legislation finally clearing the way for the memorial, and State Sen. Jim Reynolds who has been working with the survivors and family members for the past several years on the project.
Goodyear said of the more than 800 men who survived the attack, only 105 are still alive.
“This memorial isn’t about us. This is about our 429 shipmates. The boys on the Arizona died instantly—they never even knew what was happening, but on the Oklahoma, they had a horrific death, drowning in dark compartments before they could be rescued,” Goodyear said. “It isn’t right that they had to go that way, and it isn’t right that we’ve had to deal with so much red-tape and federal bureaucracy just to get this far—but I’m grateful we’re finally on the verge of getting this memorial completed while some of us are still alive to see it.”
Goodyear said the survivors group also includes relatives of the 429 men who died at Pearl Harbor, including Lisa Ridge of Indiana, whose grandfather was Petty Officer Paul Andrews Nash, Fire Controlman First Class. Ridge has been chosen to represent the families of the casualties and will attend the groundbreaking in Hawaii with a trip furnished by Bentley Hedges Travel of Oklahoma City. Ridge brought one of her grandfather’s Navy shirts to the press conference.
“I am honored to be asked to represent the families of the men who died on the Oklahoma, including my grandfather, Paul Nash,” Ridge said. “It really wasn’t until junior high, when we studied the war in the eighth grade, that I understood what had happened to my Grandfather. I just felt so sad for my mom to think that she was such a little girl when she lost her dad. I’m happy and proud that we’ll have this memorial so he and all the others will always be remembered.”
Including the donation from the Centennial Commission, approximately $250,000 has been raised for the memorial. The organization has set a goal of $750,000 to pay for the memorial and its perpetual maintenance. Reynolds said he was gratified to see the project coming to fruition.
“We really appreciate Governor Henry’s support and are very pleased that the first lady will help lead the fundraising efforts,” said Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City. “This memorial is long overdue. Being a part of this has been one of the most gratifying and humbling experiences I’ve had as a State Senator. We’re closer than we’ve ever been to seeing this become a reality.”
Tax deductible donations can be sent to: USS Oklahoma Memorial, P.O. Box 7734, Edmond, OK, 73083-7734.