Veterans, refugees honored in 'Welcome Home' exhibit
Bob Ford, whose family came to Oklahoma and started Shawnee Mills, graduated from Shawnee High School and enrolled at the University of Oklahoma. He served as a Huey helicopter pilot on more than 2,000 missions during the Vietnam War.
Harvey Pratt, who was raised on his family's allotment near El Reno, joined the Marines and was shipped in 1963 to Vietnam, where he joined a Marine air support wing that flew search-and-rescue missions.
Ban Nguyen, a Vietnam native whose father served as mayor of Cam Ranh from 1966 to 1970 and hosted U.S. military leaders, fled with his family to Fort Chaffee, Ark. He graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1984 and worked in the first Jimmy's Egg restaurant, owned by his wife's family. He eventually worked with the family in operating 21 of the 57 Jimmy's Eggs.
Ford, Pratt and Nguyen are among the veterans and refugees who are honored in the new "Welcome Home: Oklahomans and the War in Vietnam" exhibit in the E.L. and Thelma Gaylord Special Exhibits Gallery at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City. The exhibit will be on display for two years.
"The stories start with immigration, the thread that runs through the Oklahoma experience," said Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society. "The experiences of immigrants to our state, whether they were forced here on the Trail of Tears, or came here to begin new lives in all-black towns, or followed railroads west for greater opportunity, were marked with hard work, mutual support, patriotism and a high regard for education.
"This exhibit focuses on the sons and daughters of immigrants to Oklahoma who served our country in Vietnam, and the men, women and children who emigrated from Vietnam to our state in search of freedom and opportunity."