Every year Oklahomans gather at the Memorial Garden on the grounds of the Oklahoma Historical Society in Oklahoma City for a special ceremony honoring the more than 11,000 from this state who died in combat.
This year's ceremony will include an especially poignant presentation. More than sixty years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, a plaque saved from the U.S.S. Oklahoma has finally made it home. During Monday's Memorial Day ceremony which begins at 11 a.m., Senator Jim Reynolds, the son of a World War II veteran, will present the plaque to the Oklahoma Historical Society while four survivors of the ship look on.
"Too often, the victims and survivors of the U.S.S. Oklahoma seem to have been lost in the many years following Pearl Harbor. But 429 brave Americans died on that ship; a few dozen managed to dive off the ship as it capsized and survived the fiery waters to be rescued. Another 32 trapped inside the ship were eventually rescued even as the waters rushed in and came up to their necks," said Reynolds.
"It is an amazing story, yet often over looked. But these men deserve to be remembered. They aren't a footnote in history; they were sons, brothers, husbands and fathers. And they were heroes," commented Reynolds, R-OKC.
Senator Reynolds had become involved with a group interested in creating some kind of monument to honor the crew of the U.S.S. Oklahoma, including life-long friend Kevin King of Oklahoma City who introduced the Senator to Paul Goodyear of Arizona who heads up a yearly reunion for survivors of the Oklahoma.
"The U.S.S. Oklahoma was the first ship to have bunks instead of hammocks, and a plaque was installed on the ship to commemorate its modernization. When the ship was sold for scrap after Pearl Harbor, a Marine managed to 'liberate' the plaque, and later gave it to his son. The son wound up selling it to a pawn shop in California. Fortunately the owner heard about the U.S.S. Oklahoma survivors group and sent the plaque to Paul Goodyear," explained Reynolds.
"When I went to the annual gathering of U.S.S. Oklahoma survivors with my friend Kevin earlier this month, we were given the plaque to bring back home," said the Senator.
"We still are working on the development of a permanent memorial at Pearl Harbor to honor the ship and crew. But I believe that bringing this plaque back to the state the U.S.S. Oklahoma was named for is a wonderful way for us to honor those veterans this Memorial Day," said Senator Reynolds.