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Choctaw News

75th Anniversary Ceremony To Honor WWII Royal Air Force Cadets

Nations and communities are coming together to remember the loss 75 years ago of four young cadets from the #1 British Flying Training School. The Royal Air Force, Choctaw Nation, Rattan School, VFW, BFTS Museums, local officials, and community members will be holding a special ceremony to honor the men at 2:00 pm, Sunday (Feb 18) at the memorial site. Following the service, there is a reception at the Choctaw Nation Community Center, 302 SW O St. in Antlers.

Participating in the 2018 ceremony will be Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton and Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr., United Kingdom Consul-General Karen Bell, Royal Air Force Squadron Commander Craig O’Donnell and No. 1 British Flying Training School Museum President Rudy Bowling.

The wheels of 20 AT6 aircraft raised on Feb. 20, 1943, to begin a training flight from Terrell, Texas, to Miami, Oklahoma – some never making it to their destination. Two of the advanced trainers crashed in the Kiamichi Mountain Wilderness near Moyers, Oklahoma. A third landed safely in a field, its pilot, John Wall, staying to help search for the two crash sites.

“The young men took off from Terrell to Miami,” remembers Wall, 94, of Hamilton, New Zealand. “This was part of the requirements by the RAF and carried out by the U.S. Government. Our planes took off three minutes apart, and I was in the middle of the group. Unfortunately, the weather deteriorated, making the visibility poor and sadly two planes failed to cross the mountains. That killed the four-crew.”

The four crew consisted of pilot Vincent Henry Cockman and navigator Frank R. Frostick in one of the fated airplanes and pilot Michael John Minty Hosier and navigator Maurice Leslie Jensen in the other. All were members of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

A memorial ceremony has been held every February since a group of Rattan students, and their teachers did extensive research as part of a class project. They held fundraisers and were instrumental in monuments placed at one of the crash sites in 2000. The students also designed the memorial that stands near a “natural tombstone” upturned by one of the AT6 planes.

More than 1,000 people were in attendance of the unveiling of the monument 18 years ago. Many were family members of the cadets who traveled from England, grateful that their sons were not forgotten.

Many of the original students who worked to have the monument placed now have young relatives who are involved in cleanup days at the site. Towering trees protect the markers containing photos and information about the men. People in the community help to care for the area and flowers always seem to be lying at the base of the markers, not their final resting place, but a memorial for the sacrifice both countries have made to preserve and protect our freedom. The monuments honor the four cadets and all who have given their lives for the cause of liberty.

The No. 1 British Flying Training School Museum was established in 1987 to house, collect and display memorabilia related to the operation of the flying school at the Terrell, Texas, Municipal Airport during World War II. One of only six flight schools in the country set up by the U.S. military, instructors at the flying school taught more than 2,000 young English aviators to fly from 1941-1945. The Terrell community welcomed the young airmen, offering home-cooked meals and transportation, forming life-long friendships and continuing to care for the graves of 20 cadets who died during training exercises.

There is little parking at the memorial site. Visitors may park at the Moyers School, 185413 N 4142 Road, off SH 2, nine miles north of Antlers. Shuttles begin at 12:00 to take guests to the site. A reception will follow the ceremony at Choctaw Nation Community Center, 302 SW O Street, Antlers.

In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will take place at the Choctaw Nation Community Center.

Please watch for updates on Choctaw Nation’s Facebook page, choctawnation.com and bftsmuseum.org.

 

Tribal Police Help Hurricane Victims in Florida and Puerto Rico

DURANT, Okla. – Not every man would voluntarily leave his home behind to help total strangers rebuild their lives. Despite having no electricity, a diet consisting primarily of MRE’s and a near constant state of being soaked, four Choctaw Nation Tribal Police Officers volunteered to assist with a hospital evacuation that resulted in the rescue of 47 patients.

On Oct. 5, 2017, the Ryder Hospital in Humacau, Puerto Rico lost power for the third time in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which followed on the heels of Hurricane Irma.

Quick Response Team Four sprang into action. One of the Department of the Interior’s emergency response teams to mobilize after the 2017 wave of hurricanes, Quick Response Team Four was made up of tribal public safety officers and Bureau of Indian Affairs agents.

It was the first Interior team to include tribal public safety officers for a FEMA-led response. The group first responded to aid the Seminole Tribe of Florida following Hurricane Irma, then after Maria hit, 14 officers voluntarily reassigned to Puerto Rico.

Of those 14, four were Choctaw Nation officers: Larry Master, Andy Kenyon, Marvin Jefferson and Zachary Hendrix.

The officers found it difficult to leave the hospitality of the Seminole Tribe.

“There was one day we ate five times. They kept feeding us, so we kept eating. I’ll go back to help them anytime,” joked officer Kenyon, “I think it’s awesome Chief Batton sent us. It wasn’t a Choctaw problem, but he wanted to help anyway.”

The team boarded a flight to Puerto Rico and arrived to find total devastation.

“It changed the color of the ocean. You could see where the blue met the brown of the mudslides,” said Masters.

“It blew every leaf off the trees,” Jefferson added.

Masters said, “We worked for 24 hours straight some days, and I can’t remember a day we didn’t work at least 16 to 18 hours.”

The team worked to provide security and offer their services to anyone in need. On the night the hospital went dark, the Choctaw officers escorted military vehicles to safe hospitals and helped land helicopters sent to rescue the most critical patients.

Hendrix said, “The Puerto Rican people were very gracious. They kept thanking us for being there.”

While evacuating the hospital, the team was utterly cut off from the rest of the world.

“There was no radio, the cell towers were down, and it took an hour to drive to the hospital from where we were,” Kenyon said.

Choctaw Nation’s Executive Director of Public Safety John Hobbs is proud of his team. “They just kept volunteering, kept going, there’s no quit in them,” Hobbs said.

The team encountered many struggles while in Puerto Rico, not the least of which, a language barrier.

“Our GPS gave us directions in Spanish. Some of the names were long. By the time it finished telling us, we had to make a U-turn,” said Masters.

While the men enjoy sharing their experiences and laughing together, to Puerto Rican families they helped, the Choctaw public safety officers are real heroes.