USS Oklahoma Pearl Harbor Veterans finally get memorial

Oklahoma_The USS Oklahoma is the only ship and crew to never receive a memorial after it was sunk by the Japanese in Pearl Harbor.  But, that's about to change for the 429 men who lost their lives on the ship on December 7, 1941.

Thursday, a semi trailer, escorted by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the Patriot Guard Riders, left the Oklahoma capitol bound for California and then on to Hawaii.  Inside the trailer - the first shipment of marble markers for the new USS Oklahoma Memorial.

7News' Monte Brown talked with two men who were instrumental in making the memorial a reality - nearly 66 years after that deadly day.  Veterans who were aboard the USS Oklahoma who watched their friends die.  For years, they've waited for them to be honored and now that time has finally come.

Many who made up the crew of the Oklahoma weren't even from the state bearing the ships name.  But, those who survived the Japanese attack formed a bond with Oklahoma that none of us ever will.  "We did endure.  We did survive.  We were victorious, thanks to all of you," said Norman Lamb from Oklahoma Veterans Affairs.

Paul Goodyear remembers the men who perished on the ship as kids - many just 17 and 18 years old.  "One kid, he was born on December 7th 1919 and died on December 7th 1941," he said.  "Wasn't that a wonderful birthday for his mother?  Can you imagine the trauma she had?"  That thought has haunted the minds of the Oklahoma's survivors for more than half a century.

"By the time we got there, the ship was mortally wounded," said Veteran Ed Vezey.  "See the water pouring down the stack - knowing the ship was dead and so were you."  Many victims were never identified and became known as the UnknownsBut, no longer; years of fundraising and the generosity of Oklahomans have finally paid off.

"Every man is going to have his own marker, with his own name in it, the Unknowns will be known and right within a hundred yards of where the ship was sank and where they died," Vezey said.  "It's a conclusion of about 60-years of frustration because these kids should have been memorialized many, many years ago."

Organizers say once this shipment of markers reaches California, they will be transported by ship to Pearl Harbor.  And, they'll be put in place just in time for the final dedication ceremony marking the 66th Anniversary - December 7th.  All of the marble markers to honor the USS Oklahoma victims were made in the Sooner State.