Major General Douglas O. Dollar Distinguished Public Service Award
Gary W. Banz
Sergeant Gary W. Banz was born 7 December 1945 in Sylvia, Kansas. He served in the Army's 38th Artillery Brigade from 1968 to 1970 as a Chaplain's Assistant, and the Army Reserve from 1982 to 1990. He earned Army Commendation and Achievement medals. After graduating from Southern Nazarene University, he earned his Master's Degree at the University of Central Oklahoma. He was a high school teacher and coach in Putnam City, Midwest City, and Ada. Elected to the Oklahoma State Legislature in 2004, Banz served as Representative for District 101, acting Majority Whip, and served on four different committees.
As a way of showing our gratitude for their service and sacrifice, in 2009 Banz created and organized Oklahoma Honor Flights for the purpose of transporting United States military veterans, free of charge, to Washington, D.C. to see the memorial(s) of the respective war(s) in which they fought. To offset the travel costs for Oklahoma Honor Flights, Banz and volunteer committees in Tulsa, Lawton, and Oklahoma City helped raise over $2.5 million from individuals and corporate donors to make these Honor Flights possible.
Starting in May of 2010, Oklahoma Honor Flights successfully transported 502 veterans on five flights through 2011. The next four years averaged 4 flights per year. With the final flight in April 2016, Banz' initiative paid tribute to a total of 2,055 veterans on 24 flights to Washington, D.C.
Each veteran was treated to a heartwarming send-off ceremony, travel to the memorial(s) of the respective war(s) in which they fought, participated in "Mail Call" where letters written by school children to the veterans were read, and finally to a warm Welcome Home reception. For his outstanding efforts in support of our veterans, Sergeant Banz is the recipient of the 2016 Major General Douglas O. Dollar Distinguished Public Service Award.