By James Beaty
McAlester resident Carolyn Kulak is a veteran herself, so she felt doubly honored to serve as a guardian for a World War II veteran during the most recent Oklahoma Honor Flight to Washington D.C.
Kulak served as a guardian on the flight for World War II veteran Harold Taylor, of Tulsa. Kulak said Taylor served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
For purposes of the trip, individuals known as guardians are assigned to individual veterans to accompany them to the nation’s Capitol.
Kulak said she had never met Taylor prior to the Sept. 18 flight, but she still felt honored to have been chosen to accompany him and the other veterans and guardians on the trip to Washington.
“I consider it a privilege and an honor to have been part of this program,” Kulak said.
“I was very proud and humbled to be asked to go as a guardian.”
Referring to the World War II Memorial and other memorials the veterans were traveling to Washington to see, Kulak said she thought heartened to know that because of the flight, “These guys are going to see something for very first time.”
The itinerary called for the group to fly to Washington and return to Oklahoma on the same day.
“We assembled at the SpiritBank Event Center in Bixby,” Kulak said, referring to a Sept. 17 event held the night before the honor flight.
In addition to the WW II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima Monument, made huge impressions.
The Korean War memorial consists of 19 stainless-steel statues, depicting soldiers on patrol.
“It was eerie; it was so lifelike,” Kulak said.
While honored to accompany the World War II vets, Kulak has her own military experience as a member of the Oklahoma National Guard. She is a Gulf War veteran, serving during Operation Desert Shield and then Operation Desert Storm during the fight by allied forces to drive Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
Kulak said she originally served with the 445th Military Police Co. based in McAlester, then later served with the 745th MP Company after she moved to Oklahoma City.
During the Gulf War, she served with the 745th.
“The 745th took care of the POW camps,” she said.
Kulak said her outfit was mobilized again in 2003 to provide security at Tinker Air Force Base.
She later finished her career with the 1120th Maintenance Co. based in Ada. Kulak said she retired from the Oklahoma National Guard in 2004 after 20 years of service.
She called the trip to see the military memorials in Washington D.C. a wonderful way to make a trip, with individuals who she called the “ladies and gentlemen” of an earlier generation. In addition to the male vets, there were four female World War II veterans who made the Sept. 18 trip to Washington D.C.
She said several of the veterans were sad at one point, because they told her the “true heroes were buried.”
Oklahoma Honor Flights are still being booked for World War II veterans.
Anyone needing more information can contact Oklahoma Honor Flights at 405-259-8260 or can write to Oklahoma Honor Flights: P.O. Box 10492, Midwest City, OK 73140.
While the veterans fly free, there is a $500 fee for the guardians who accompany them. Kulak feels it’s well worth the cost.
“It was inspirational,” she said.
Contact James Beaty at firstname.lastname@example.org.