By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Oklahoma Secretary of Veterans Affairs Norman Lamb was presented a Legacy Veteran Lifetime Achievement Award during a special ceremony Sunday afternoon at Convention Hall. The award was presented by Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, the son of the longtime Enid state senator and attorney.
World War II veterans from each branch of the military were presented with Legacy Awards for their service, and each was introduced by a veteran in his branch of the service.
Lamb thanked the veterans who were honored with Legacy Awards Sunday, as well as all veterans for the sacrifices they have made to help make the country free.
“When I was growing up in Enid, I didn’t think about those sacrifices and the freedom I had,” Lt. Gov. Lamb said. He said many cities and towns have ceremonies to honor veterans, but not enough.
“If you thank these men for being a hero, they will say they aren’t a hero, but they served with a lot of them,” he said.
Norman Lamb introduced the first Legacy honoree, Army veteran Tom LaMunyon. He gave a brief biography of LaMunyon’s service during World War II and presented him with his award.
“He’s been to hell and back,” Norman Lamb said of LaMunyon. During his three years in the Army, LaMunyon walked across Europe, serving with a mortar team. He received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star while serving under Gen. George S. Patton.
Marine veteran Arlo Becker was introduced by Marine veteran Doug Frantz, a former Enid mayor. Frantz presented a biography of Becker’s military experiences during some of the toughest battles of World War II. Becker was involved in the invasion of Okinawa, which Frantz called a “bloodbath.” More than 12,000 Americans were killed in that battle, 36,000 injured and another 33,000 suffered non-combat injuries.
Navy veteran Frank Baker introduced World War II Navy veteran Rex Campbell. Campbell was forced to abandon his ship during a battle with Japanese naval forces after the Japanese successfully lured the American ships away from Campbell’s vessel. Campbell and others were in the water for two days, fighting sharks, hunger and thirst.
Air Force veteran Lonnie Gillespie was introduced by Air Force veteran Bud Smith, who presented a biography of Gillespie’s military career. Gillespie was a member of a B-25 maintenance crew and could not enter the Air Force’s flight program due to a lazy eye. He learned to fly privately, and later served in both Korea and Vietnam. He was dropped behind enemy lines to repair aircraft so they could be flown back to base.
Chief Petty Officer Patrick Hodges of the Coast Guard presented a biography of recipient Orleau Marlatt, who served under boxer Jack Dempsey in the U.S. Coast Guard. Marlatt, as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard, protected America’s shores from Maine to Florida. He was a member of the Coast Guard from 1942 until 1946. During that time, the Coast Guard captured German saboteurs off the shores of New York. A number of times, ships would attempt to land on American shores, only to turn around when they saw how well the shores were protected, Hodges said.
After the war, Marlatt helped build Enid Airfield, which later became Vance Air Force Base.
As their names were called, the veterans climbed the stairs to the stage, assisted by an Air Force member. They were helped down and took a seat in front of the stage, where well-wishers greeted them after the program. Some were unable to climb the stairs and immediately went to the chair. The emcee for the program was Ian Parker of NewsChannel 4.