COLUMBIA — The Salute to Veterans Memorial Day ceremony evoked salutes to fallen service members and elicited memories from their living loved ones outside the Boone County Courthouse on Monday morning.
Retired Air Force Maj. Jim Thompson of Columbia remembered his stepfather, A.R. Troxell, an Army colonel who served as a muleskinner during World War I, which began 100 years ago this July.
Thompson said that after the war, Troxell completed a degree in agriculture at MU before heading off to Yale University to pursue a law degree. He then returned to Columbia to work as an attorney.
"He's the one I think of," said Thompson, a Bronze Star recipient who served in both World War II and Vietnam. "I know why I'm here."
Vietnam War-era veteran Air Force Staff Sgt. Bob Hayes has been coming to both the parade and the ceremony since 1980. He said he comes to remember his fallen comrades who would otherwise be lost to history.
"If it weren't for ceremonies like this, no one would know about the sacrifices they made," Hayes said. "That's why it's important."
The ceremony drew a crowd of more than a hundred veterans and Columbia residents.
When retired Army Lt. Col. Eric Cunningham took the stage to introduce veterans who were honored guests, he also emphasized the importance of events that recognize the sacrifices of local service members.
"They placed the benefit of others before the benefit of themselves," he said. "As long as we remember them, they are never forgotten."
Coast Guard Vice Adm. Jody Breckenridge, who delivered the main speech of the ceremony, applauded the community for its support of veterans and encouraged those in attendance to continue listening to the stories of service members.
"You will have a deeper understanding of the price of freedom and what it means to be an American," she said.
Retired Navy Seaman David Dollens, who served on the Navy cruiser USS Newport News in the 1960s, knows just how high that price can be.
His brother Marine Corps Pfc. Harold Ray Dollens was killed in action in 1965 in Vietnam. David Dollens' oldest brother, William "Bud" Dollens Jr., was a Korean War veteran who died from radiation exposure during his time in the Army.
David Dollens, one of 14 children, has four other brothers who are also veterans of the Army or the Marine Corps.
"That's the reason I come, to honor them," he said.
Supervising editor is Seth Klamann.