BY DAVID PERRYMAN
If you have ever visited my office in the Oklahoma State Capitol, you know that it is on the fifth floor near the north entrance into the public gallery above the chamber of the House of Representatives. Historically, the fifth floor has been used as the location to which the minority party is relegated after all of the desirable offices on the third and fourth floors have been assigned to members of the majority party.
However, even without the rich walnut furnishings of those lower, larger offices, there are two primary reasons that I believe that I have the best office in the Capitol building. Not only is my office immediately adjacent to the “People’s Entrance” into the “People’s Chamber,” a portrait that hangs by that entrance provides a daily reminder of the sacrifices made by men and women who have served our nation over the past 2½ centuries.
That portrait, by artist R. T. Foster, depicts the “Attack on the Battleship Oklahoma” in Pearl Harbor, an event that occurred 77 years ago this week, on Dec. 7, 1941.
The painting was a gift to the people of Oklahoma by Admiral and Mrs. William J. Crowe in 2001. Admiral Crowe served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush and as Ambassador to the United Kingdom under President William Jefferson Clinton. The fact that Admiral Crowe and his wife cared enough to go to the time and expense to donate this work of art is a testament to their character and compassion.
I am honored to have the opportunity to see that painting each time I enter and exit my Capitol office and that honor grew deeper when I was able to place on my desk in direct view of the painting, a case displaying the flag that covered the casket of my father, who was a member of the PV-1 Naval Air Corp Squadron VPB-152, formed at Burns Flat [NAS-Clinton] and after training stateside passed through Ford Island in Pearl Harbor on its way to its duty station on Peleliu Island.
Originally, VPB-152 formed the core of a secret Navy project to develop a remote-controlled drone bomb. That and other experiments followed.
On Aug. 2, 1945, it was one of the planes from that Burns Flat squadron that spotted the oil slick and the survivors of the USS Indianapolis. The cruiser had been sunk by a Japanese torpedo on the night of July 29, only three days after it had delivered the parts and the enriched uranium [about half of the world’s supply of Uranium-235 at the time] for “Little Boy,” the first operational atomic bomb, which would later be dropped on Hiroshima.
So, in a way, in the north hallway of the west wing of the fifth floor of the Oklahoma State Capitol, there are reminders of both the beginning and the end of World War II in the Pacific Theatre.
That makes me pause and continually assess dangers, sacrifices, loss of life and heroics shown by men and women on behalf of our country. It gives me gratitude that there have been millions of selfless individuals who have answered our nation’s call.
It makes me cognizant that they intended to protect rights and liberties for themselves, their neighbors and their children and to continue that to make that difference for the generations of descendants that they would never know.
Oklahoma’s veterans did not fight for a state where hundreds of thousands of its citizens do not have access to health care or suffer from income inequality. They did not put themselves in harm’s way for a state that is not willing to properly educate its children or allow them to go to bed hungry. They did not sacrifice for a state that neglects the needs of the disabled and the mentally ill.
Oklahoma is at a crossroads. Seventy-seven years ago this week, our nation rose to the challenge. Do today’s leaders possess the quality of character to put the people of our state before greed and selfishness, or will 2019 become our year of infamy and our date with destiny?
– Chickasha Democrat David Perryman represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House