A truck carrying the first shipment of marble markers for the USS Oklahoma Memorial at Pearl Harbor pulled away from the State Capitol on Thursday escorted by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and members of state and national bikers’ organizations. The 429 markers are engraved with the names of each of the men who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
State Sen. Jim Reynolds has worked with the USS Oklahoma Survivors organization since his first term in office. He was the master of ceremonies for a brief ceremony that took place before the truck carrying the markers left the State Capitol.
“All this group has ever wanted is a permanent memorial at Pearl Harbor to pay tribute to the men who died in that attack nearly 66 years ago,” said Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City. “I am overjoyed that after all these years we’re nearing the end of that journey.”
Gov. Brad Henry also spoke at the ceremony on Thursday. He was on hand when the memorial design was first unveiled at the State Capitol in 2006, and helped obtain $100,000 from the State Centennial Commission to help fund the project. The Commission has since contributed another $250,000.
“It’s been too long coming, but the USS Oklahoma Memorial is nearly complete,” Henry said. “It seems very fitting that in December, the last month of our centennial year, the ship named for our great state and the men who died there will finally have the permanent memorial at Pearl Harbor that they’ve so long deserved.”
USS Oklahoma survivors Paul Goodyear of Arizona and Ed Vezey of Colorado were both on hand for the State Capitol Ceremony.
“This has never been about us. This has always been about the men who didn’t make it off the USS Oklahoma that day,” Goodyear said. “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about them, and I appreciate everything the people of Oklahoma have done to help make this happen.”
Vezey echoed that sentiment and said he was happy the memorial would be complete while some of the survivors were still around to see the dedication ceremony.
“This has been a race against time for us, and many of the survivors who began this fight with us are no longer here,” Vezey said. “But now we’re nearly there and will finally have a fitting tribute to the 429 men who gave their lives to keep our country free.”
In addition to Goodyear and Vezey, Arles Cole, president of the Chapter One Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, and Roland Nee, Oklahoma chairman of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, were on hand to present a check for $1000. The cost of the memorial is expected to be $1.1 million. An additional $100,000 is still needed.
One cost that will not have to be born is the cross-country shipping of the marble and granite for the memorial. Swift Transportation Co. Inc. regional manager Tom Cook said the national trucking company had donated their services.
“We are privileged to be a part of the creation of the USS Oklahoma Memorial,” Cook said. “The sacrifices made at Pearl Harbor should never be forgotten, and we are honored to make sure those men will always be remembered.”
The truck and its escorts left EuroCraft Granite and Marble Fabrication in Glenpool earlier on Thursday morning and headed to the Capitol. From there the shipment traveled west on I-40 to the state border.
“We hope that other states will provide escorts as this shipment makes its way to California. From there the markers will go by ship to Hawaii,” Reynolds said. “I am honored to have had the privilege of working with the USS Oklahoma survivors to make this happen. It’s an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
The final dedication ceremony for the USS Oklahoma Memorial will be held on December 7, 2007.