For more than a century now, an area in the Capitol hallway near the lieutenant governor's office has been known as the Hall of Sailors and Soldiers.
Over the past three years, the memorial has undergone a metamorphosis. Now called the Missouri Veterans Hall of Fame, it honors veterans -- with a twist. The 10 veterans who were inducted in the first two classes not only had ties to Missouri and served their country -- they also served their communities in valuable ways after their military service.
As we recently reported, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe was joined by veterans, state lawmakers and the Missouri Veterans Hall of Fame Board to unveil a plaque featuring the first two classes of inductees Wednesday morning.
The Sikeston VFW Post 1374 donated the plaque that contains 10 names across two inducted classes. Harry S Truman, Missouri's only president, is among the names now hanging in the Capitol. Others are John Gordon, an Air Force veteran from Jefferson City who served as a homeland security adviser; James Tatum, an Army veteran from Pineville who served in the Korean War, then co-authored legislation that created community colleges in Missouri and led a campaign to designate land for Crowder College in 1963.
Four were inducted in the first class: Joseph J. Frank, U.S. Army; Ophelia L. Owens, U.S. Marine Corps; Brydon McCall Ross, U.S. Army Air Corps; and Truman.
Six were inducted into the second class in 2021: James M. Eddleman, U.S. Army; Gordon; Velma Bippen Jesse, U.S. Women's Army Corps; William L. Miller Sr., U.S. Army; Tatum; and John G. "Jack" Waggener, U.S. Army.
There's room for at least 22 more classes of inductees.
"There's so much history in this building and to have our veterans plaque and Veterans Hall of Fame here -- it's something that as our visitors come, they're going to see that and they're also going to be reminded of what veterans have done for our state," said Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City.
We commend Griffith, Kehoe and others who have worked to develop this tribute.
There are many veterans who served our country honorably, and there are many civilians who have made great contributions to our state. This unique and fitting tribute honors the relatively few who have done both.