Oklahoman Plans Trip To Honor Fallen Military Service Members

Sunday, January 24th 2016, 11:28 pm
By: News 9

One group is planning a trip to honor the Thunderbirds and the 45th Infantry Division in an effort to let Oklahomans learn more about their heroic loved ones.

"This is a picture of my grandfather,” Raymond Van Zante said. 

There are timeless photos.

"This is notification of killed in action,” he said. 

And there a few old newspaper clippings that are discolored with age.

"This is my mom being interviewed at 8 years old,” he said. 

Raymond never met his grandfather and neither did his mother.

"He was killed in action in October 1943,” Van Zante said. “She was born in February 1944."

An article in The Daily Oklahoman captures the little girl who grew up without a father and raised by her grandmother.

"What she says is my father, I wonder what he was like,” he said. “Roberta Sue Williams, 8, often stops to ponder."

Like many Oklahomans with loved ones killed in the line of duty, just like his mother, Van Zante ponders, too. 

"My grandfather was killed in World War II and is actually buried in Natuna, Italy,” he said. 

He is buried at the American cemetery there.

"I know exactly where he's buried,” Van Zante said. 

The grave site is not only a place his grandfather was laid to rest but a bonding moment for Van Zante and his mother.

"I was stationed in Europe in '82 to '85,” he said. "My mom actually traveled over in '82 and we took a trip down. We were the first two in the family to see the grave site." 

Just like his grandfather, Van Zante was in his 20's.

"It was just something special for us,” he said. 

Now, more than 30 years later, he's going back to that  place of bittersweet sentiment and American history. A moment he once shared with his mother and now his wife.

"It's a little emotional just thinking about when I was there before,” he said. "It's our history. Oklahoma is the 45th."

This trip is scheduled for July, and there is still time to sign up for the event. 

For more information about the trip call Prime Time Travel of Edmond at 405-340-1120 or visit primetimetrvl.com.