Tinker Reservist escorts Tulsa veteran to D.C. for the trip of a lifetime
By Tech. Sgt. Lauren Gleason, 507th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 16, 2015
TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- It's important to recognize those brave individuals who served before us, and the Oklahoma Honor Flight program is one way to show veterans that we appreciate their sacrifice.
Eighty-one World War II and Korean War veterans took part in an Oklahoma honor flight bound for Washington, D.C., on Sept 16, 2015.
Korean War army veteran, Jim Whitsett of Tulsa, had the opportunity to take part in the once-in-a-lifetime flight. Tech. Sgt. Christina Hymes of the 507th Medical Squadron had the honor of being his guardian, which entailed escorting Whitsett to Washington, D.C.
Hymes and the 87-year old veteran took a 19-hour trip to the nation's capital to visit memorials built in his honor. They visited memorials honoring those who served in World War II, Iwo Jima, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars among others. The three Honor Flight buses had police escorts for the duration of their trip in Washington, D.C to assist in keeping on the tight schedule.
"I was amazed at how coordinated everything was," said Whitsett, a native of Tulsa. "Everything went right on schedule; the food was also very good. It was very well done."
The day prior to the flight, the veterans were honored at a reception at the Hudiburg Center in Midwest City, Oklahoma. Tinker personnel and members of the Mustang High School Family, Career and Community Leaders of America escorted each veteran to their seats, and every service member was recognized individually with a description of his or her service.
Whitsett said he was very appreciative of his guardian's attentiveness.
"Chris was just fantastic, and she made sure I had everything that I needed," Whitsett said.
Oklahoma Honor Flights was organized in the fall of 2009 as an official affiliate of Honor Flight Network Inc., based out of Springfield, Ohio. Oklahoma became the 31st state to form an organization to support the national effort. Each trip costs approximately $100,000 at no cost to the veterans.
Hymes had visited Washington, D.C. before, but she said that this particular trip was special for many reasons.
"My favorite part was being able to see him experience the memorials that were built for him and his fellow veterans," said Hymes.
Since Whitsett left the Army, he and his wife had two sons who are now retired naval officers. They also have two grandsons who are graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. Whitsett stays busy by running his own business importing wine racks and selling them to businesses all over the country.