Armed Forces Day Luncheon honors nation's military

May 4—Armed Forces Day Committee Chairman Jeff Wolf told those who attended the Armed Forces Day Luncheon that honoring our nation's military is a McAlester tradition.

"McAlester has a long history of honoring soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, guardians and coastguardsmen who have defended our freedom for over 200 years," Wolf said.

"In fact, this is the 77th consecutive year that McAlester has celebrated Armed Forces Day," Wolf said — adding that McAlester is tied with a city in Washington for having the longest-running Armed Forces Day celebration in the nation.

He noted that this year men and women of the U.S. Air Force were specifically being honored, as well as those serving in the other branches of the nation's armed forces.

McAlester Army Ammunition Plant Commander Col. Gabe Pryor told those attending the Armed Forces Day Luncheon that he appreciates the community's support for the military.

Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Williams, a McAlester native, served as featured speaker for the event. Williams is the seventh chief master sergeant for the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

During the luncheon, McAlester Mayor John Browne presented the Missing Man Ceremony, dedicated this year to Bennie Davis, the U.S. Air Force 4 Star General who was from McAlester.

Prior to the ceremony, Pittsburg Baptist Association Director of Missions Rick Dominic spoke of Gen. Davis' military career.

Gen. Davis served as commander-in-chief of the Strategic Air Command and as director of the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff. As a pilot,Davis flew 142 combat missions over Vietnam, and in 1968 joined the Organization of the Joints chief of Staff.

Mayor Browne noted that the empty Missing Man table is set aside to honor those members of the military who are no longer with us.

"It is raised to call your attention to honor our absent, our fallen and our missing comrades-in-arms," Browne said.

"The empty place setting represents Americans who are absent, fallen or still missing," said Browne. "This ceremony symbolizes that they are with us, here in spirit.

"Americans should never forget the brave men and women who answered our nation's call and served the cause of freedom in a special way," Browne said. "Always remember."

As the ceremony neared its end, Browne closed with "The chairs are empty; they are missing. Never forget."

Col. Pryor and Chief Williams participated in a wreath-laying ceremony.

"In their memory, Chief Williams will place a wreath honoring the service of all the servicemen and women who have sacrificed so much and given their all to protect the freedom we enjoy today," Wolf said.

Chief Master Sgt. Williams spoke of the importance training has in preparing the nation's military service members to learn to obey orders, even through something so basic as marching in formation.

"Embrace it; follow that training," he said. "Training means response," said Williams, whose service included Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

He told of how he had once been a paper boy in McAlester, delivering newspapers.

"When I left McAlester 40 years ago, I never dreamed I would be with you today," Williams said.

Among those attending the luncheon were Williams' parents, Tom and Robbie Williams.

Earlier, the Rev. Donald Brown gave the invocation, with the presentation of colors delivered by the Tinker Air Force Base Honor Guard.

Following the Pledge of Allegiance, Dory Francis sang the National Anthem.

Also during the event, Mike Brown — who is retired from the Air Force and who operates Mike's Club in McAlester — received the Distinguished Veterans Award.

In presenting the award, Wolf noted the many things Mike's Club does on behalf of the community.

"Where would we be without people like you?" Wolf said to Mike Brown as he presented him the award.

Wolf also reminded those who were present that the Armed Forces Day Parade was scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 4, in downtown McAlester.