BY C.L. HARMON, PUBLISHER
So how did you end up here? This was my first question for Gordon Stewart. It’s not like there are a lot of Brits living in rural Oklahoma. Especially this area and so I thought it might be interesting to know the answer before moving on to the main reason for the interview. That was to be my second question. Interestingly enough the answers to both questions were connected. But before getting into that, he had to explain what led him to the situation that would provide the answers I now sought. He said that as a child growing up in post war England (late 1950’s), he would notice that many men had missing limbs or scars and this caused him to have a great interest in what caused those missing limbs and healed injuries. During school, one of his teachers was a WWII vet who had served under noted General Bernard Montgomery and his stories intrigued Stewart as well. As his knowledge of the war grew, so did his appreciation for the US involvement. “If it were not for the Americans, I might possibly be dead or even living in a concentration camp,” Stewart said. This general gratitude for those who served in the war continued to fuel his interest about the sacrifices made by those who served. Although not a serviceman himself, Stewart began learning about elements of the war from both the British and American contributions during the war and became evermore intrigued. Although not a serviceman himself, Stewart began learning about elements of the war from both the British and American contributions and became evermore interested. Now, back to answer the first questions. Stewart, became interested in the paratroopers of war time Europe and so he sought out a group who could teach him about it. He found a group in England who shared his enthusiasm. Happens that group was involved with another group of trooper enthusiasts in Oklahoma. He began flying over here every 90 days to train and made his first jump on the 60th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France at the original dropzones on the beaches. He made the jump in the same equipment those war time paratroopers did during the original jump. He loved it and continued to train in McAlester every three months for other historic jumps at locations from the war such as in Holland and Bastogne. During one of those trips over here in 2004, he was introduced to his future wife Tracy, an Okie, he quipped. They were married in 2005 and lived in Tulsa for ten years. He continued acquiring war memorabilia from family and friends after the jumps stopped and the marriage began, but does not consider himself a collector, but rather someone who likes WWII history. He has a room in his home out in the Basin area that is dedicated to his hobby and he was recently asked to display some of the war items from his “not collection” for those who attended the KCHS Vet’s Appreciation. His collection is quite impressive. Not from a financial stand point. Most of what he possesses is valued in sentimental currency, not dollar value. However, it is a priceless experience to hold a piece of history that has such meaning to our history. He has very few weapons (they don’t fire), but focuses more on uniforms and their meanings. He has medals given to him and knows what each one of them signifies as well as the patches worn on uniforms. He is a walking history book on a multitude of subjects pertaining to the war. His collection contains many items that are associated with survival, such as a shovel, helmet, rations and then a few dead grenades tossed in as well. I think what makes his collection so interesting though is not the memorabilia that can be seen in a hundred museums across the world, but the interest that was planted and then cultivated into a part of his life. Growing up in a society where the remnants of war were still so much of a part of everyday had a profound effect on him and that makes his “not collection” mean something to him. It means that he is reminded of how much he loves America because of their sacrifices to make sure that all people are free. It means that he is free. And this is always worth remembering and sharing with all who enjoy freedom; a freedom secured by those who used his memorabilia to defeat an evil aggressor.