NORMAN — Bus loads of veterans, motorcycle groups, car clubs and large military transports are some of the participants coming to this year’s Veterans Parade in Norman. In celebration of the holiday Monday, the Saturday parade will start at the First Baptists Church and end at the Cleveland County Veterans Memorial in the southwest corner of Reaves Park, 2501 Jenkins Ave.
“The kids are in school on Monday and we wanted a weekend,” parade chair Roger Gallagher said. “We are doing it Saturday, and we have two Oklahomans who are going to be the grand marshal and the emcee.”
Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Harry “Bud” Wyatt III will serve as parade grand marshal and the keynote speaker at the memorial.
Gallagher said his father was a Korean War veteran, and the focus of the event this year is the Korean War.
Brigadier Gen. Gregory Ferguson will be the emcee.
The parade will start at 10 a.m. and will be about a quarter-mile long. Twenty-four complete units and about 95 vehicles of various assortment — from military to civilian — will participate, Gallagher said.
“The Canadian River Cruisers are a big part of this,” he said.
A native Oklahoman, parade marshal and keynote speaker, Wyatt has had a distinguished career.
Wyatt was born and raised in Stillwater. He graduated from Stillwater High School in 1967.
He attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where he played football and baseball. His degree was in business administration.
“I went into the Air Force,” he said. “Vietnam was going on, and I opted to enlist in the United States Air Force in 1971 after I graduated college.”
Wyatt’s father served in World War II and in Korea. In WWII, the elder Wyatt was an enlisted man in the Army Air Corps.
“They did not have an Air Force back in World War II,” the younger Wyatt said. “He was an engine mechanic on B-29s.”
Following WWII, the elder Wyatt became an Army officer.
Wyatt said his father was an intelligence officer for the United States Army.
“I wanted to be an officer because he was an officer. He was tied to aviation,” Wyatt said.
The elder Wyatt eventually owned a private airplane, and his son, “Bud” Wyatt, liked flying with his dad.
“He was my inspiration,” Bud Wyatt said.
After Vietnam, Bud Wyatt continued in his pilot father’s footsteps, flying F106 Delta Darts, big Delta Wing fighter interceptors. He was stationed in Minot, N.D. He next became an instructor pilot in Florida. In August 1977, he transferred to the Tulsa Air National Guard, where he flew F100 Super Sabres.
Back in Oklahoma, Bud Wyatt enrolled in the University of Tulsa Law School. He flew part-time and attended law school.
After graduation, he continued flying jets part-time with the National Guard while practicing law. He flew the Corsair and eventually the F16, which fighter pilots still fly now.
“The fighting Falcon is what they call it,” he said.
In 1998, he became a judge in Vinita.
Before he left office, Gov. Frank Keating appointed Wyatt as interim adjutant general and secretary of the military for Oklahoma. When Gov. Brad Henry took office in 2003, he appointed Wyatt to the post.
During the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process, Wyatt worked with elected leadership to preserve Oklahoma’s military installations.
“I was the behind-the-scenes guy,” he said.
He was part of the effort to build seven Armed Forces Reserve Training Centers across Oklahoma with federal funding and to give 43 armories to local communities. The Smalley Army Reserve Center, which is being remodeled into the City of Norman Investigations Center, was one of those closed armories.
Next, Wyatt was named director of the Air National Guard by President George W. Bush in 2009, a four-year tour. That carried a promotion to a rank of three-star general.
“That’s what I retired as, three-star general,” he said.
Now he does consulting and lives near Grand Lake.
“Sen. (James) Inhofe appointed me, and I serve as one of eight commissions on the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt said he is happy to be speaking at the Veterans Day memorial celebration in Norman.
“It’s like coming home,” Wyatt said.
Refreshments including hot chocolate and donuts will be served at the park. The refreshments are being donated by local vendors.
Gallagher said there will be plenty of automobiles for veterans who want to be in the parade and need a ride.
“Anybody who is a veteran is welcome to just walk up and march; we get quite a few of them,” Gallagher said.
He said the parade moves slowly and is an easy walk.
No flyover is allowed this year because of the sequester, but the memorial ceremony will include the national anthem, Pledge of Allegiance, a 21-gun salute and the song “Amazing Grace.”