TONKAWA — A Purple Heart Ceremony is set for Saturday, Nov. 10 at Northern Oklahoma College for 1st Lt. Strather Franklin Wood, USMC, and father of NOC Engineering, Physical Science, and Process Technology Division Chair Frankie Wood-Black.
The ceremony is set for 11:30 a.m. at the Gazebo near the clock tower. In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be in the Foster Piper Fieldhouse.
A Marine Corps Birthday cake will be served.
Students, members of the public and all Veterans are invited to attend.
According to Wood-Black, 1st Lt. Wood was killed, February 18, 1971, in the Vietnam Conflict during the operation known as Dewey Canyon II or Lam Son 719. He was the co-pilot of a CH-53D from HMH-463 and was killed in a crash while returning to Marble Mountain.
He was the member of a five-man crew which included Maj. Wayne R. Hyatt, Sgt. Allen K. McFlesh, Sgt. Will C. Odom, Jr., and Cpl. Larry R. Hatter. The flight also included three passengers Ssgt. Richard T. Baker, Sgt. Richard A. Lillie and Sgt. Gregory A. Sloat.
She added that although the flight was originally classified as an accident, there was evidence at the time that the helicopter had taken battle damage during the operation.
Earlier this past year, due to efforts led by several individuals including William Whitehurst, the flight was reclassified from an accident to one that was a result of enemy fire.
Because of this reclassification, all of the members of the flight crew and passengers have been awarded the Purple Heart.
The date for this ceremony was chosen to recognize Veteran’s Day and the Marine Corps birthday. The family wishes to recognize the efforts of those individuals who poured out their time and effort to have the historical record based upon the facts of the incident and all military personnel and their families.
Even though the event occurred 41 years ago, Wood-Black said that her father would have wanted the event to educate individuals.
“He was a person was always driven to learn,” Wood-Black said. “His background was similar to many of the students that currently attend NOC. He was a first-generation college student.”
According to Wood-Black, in 1963 Wood was a student of the then Boise State Junior College and finished his Bachelor Degree at the University of Oregon. While in college, he was married, had a family, and worked. He was a member of forest firefighting teams, worked at a fish hatchery and was a delivery driver for the local Coke-a-Cola bottling factory.
Although Dr. Wood-Black was a youngster at the time of the event, she remembers her father clearly and the culture of the time. First Lt. Wood left behind a family that included Dr. Wood-Black’s mother and her younger sister. His names as well as all of the members of that fateful flight are inscribed on the Vietnam Memorial.