OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA --These are the people who felt the impact of history.
These are the Oklahomans who fought our wars and who's lives were changed by them.
They are people like WWI veteran Vince Maddox of Tahlequah, or WWII combat photographer L.Z. Gentry.
"Photographers," he recalls, "When they were classified as combat photographers, they were written off. Their longevity was zero."
We spoke with crew members of the U.S.S. Batfish submarine.
We flew with former B-24 pilot Herb Hengst.
We even talked over old times with a B-17 crew called Ryan's Rascals.
One of the crew members recalls, "We got shot up one time. The whole rear end of the plane was shot out, oxygen and everything."
It doesn't matter who you speak with.
Anyone who's ever seen combat has probably seen someone they know make that ultimate sacrifice.
Jake McNeese was one of the original 'Dirty Dozen' (they actually called themselves The Filthy 13)
"We were just a bunch of hard nose fighting men," he said.
Forrest Pruitt and Verdon Royce helped capture the bridge at Remagen.
They came home to tell those stories and remember their experiences, each in their own way, with pictures, medals, and a few mementos.
"You think about it," said one Korean Veteran in Clinton. "A lot of times, I don't know how to describe it but it's pretty hard."
Enid's Lawrence Leutkermeyer gave some of those mementos back a few years ago to the sister of a Japanese soldier killed on the island of Saipan.
Dr. Henry Wolfe of Hugo got in touch with the baby, all grown up, that he delivered during the Battle of the Bulge.
"It's a very gratifying experience," he said in 1994, "knowing that you saved a newborn baby."
Former pilot Jim Mahaffee stayed around long enough to worry about his own grandson who was a helicopter pilot in Iraq in 2003.
"I think God will take care of him," he said.
You look at these faces, hear names and dates, and without even hearing the details you know they lost friends and loved ones.
Wilma Kush lost a brother in WWII and a son in Vietnam.
"You pick up the pieces," she said, "and you go on and you make a life for yourself. You don't just quit."
Boyd Fallwell lost friends to, so as often as he could he performed memorials for fallen soldiers.
These are the people who are closer to Memorial Day they would like to be.
We pause on this holiday to remember the people they lost and, also, to remember the ones they left behind, to continue the good fight.
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