The St. Louis chapter of the Seabee Veterans of America unveiled its third and final state Seabee monument Saturday at the Jefferson City National Cemetery.
Uniformed Navy members and veterans were represented in the 60-strong crowd attending the dedication ceremony for the monument, a smooth marble structure emblazoned with the motto "We build. We fight."
The monument commemorates the service of Seabees, members of the U.S. Navy's construction forces. Two other Seabee monuments have been installed at national cemeteries in St. Louis and Springfield in the past year and a half.
The Seabee forces were formed in 1942 to meet a need for skilled construction on American bases during WWII.
Lt. Jeffery Turner, the event's keynote speaker, read from a poem detailing Seabees' characteristics and accomplishments. In his speech, Turner praised Seabees as men and women of "magical ability" who are able to make something out of nothing.
"We are truly an extension of God's hands, and the answer to the prayers of those whose lives have been turned upside down," Turner said.
In a cross-generational ceremony, four WWII veteran-members of the nation's first class of Seabees were invited to unveil the monument while current Seabees from Ft. Leonard Wood placed a wreath at its base.
For WWII veteran Kenneth Gill, attending the ceremony was a priceless opportunity. Gill, a Jefferson City native, volunteered as a Seabee from 1945 to 1946 after completing his Navy training. He was stationed in Japan, where he did carpentry work.
"I'm proud of it, very much," he said of his role in the unveiling. "Not me so much, but the others deserve it."
Honorary Seabee Patty Caldera was also thankful for the opportunity to participate in the dedication. Caldera, who opened the event by singing the national anthem with her vocal student, Carrie Bannon, was present at all three Seabee memorial ceremonies in Missouri.
Service in the armed forces is a commitment Caldera wholeheartedly supports. An Air Force veteran herself, she works closely with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
"It's wonderful," she said of the dedication ceremony. "I really enjoyed singing and dedicating a monument to those who have served our country."