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story.lead_photo.caption Members and shadows of Samuel F. Gearhart Detachment of Marine Corps League Honor Guard stand after firing a three volley salute Thursday outside of St. Peter Church following the annual Veterans Day Service. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

Once again, Jefferson City showed its strong support for those who have served their country in the military.

Numerous community events were held on Veterans Day, starting with the annual free breakfast at Hy-Vee on West Truman Boulevard, where an estimated 700 people were served.

The events offered veterans opportunities to share their experiences and remember the sacrifices made in service.

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George Foster Sr. of Jefferson City served in the Army and went to Vietnam in 1969. Foster was a Tunnel Rat. These were American, Australian, New Zealand and South Vietnamese soldiers who performed underground search and destroy missions during the Vietnam War.

"It was trying at times, but it was a job — that's how I looked at it," Foster said.

Foster said he traveled much of his life before he met his wife, and it was after he met her that he was called to the Army.

"I did my basic in Fort Collins, Colorado, and then went to Fort Lewis, Washington, where I moved a rock pile big enough to fill that store (pointing back at Hy-Vee) before they sent me over to Vietnam," Foster said with a laugh.

Foster said he was glad to see the support shown for veterans now because it wasn't that way when he returned from Vietnam.

"I was called a baby killer and a lot of other things that really hurt," Foster said. "Sometimes when I think it about it now, it still hurts."

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At one time, Kip Neblett of Jefferson City was the only transistor radar repairman in military service. He had to put the devices together, tune them up, train people to use them and send those personnel out into the field.

"I volunteered to go to Vietnam, but they wouldn't let me go because I was the only that could work with that radar," Neblett said.

He joined the National Guard in 1956 and then went on to serve in the Army at Fort Hood Texas. While there, he was put on alert during the Berlin Crisis of 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

"They put us on airplanes and didn't tell us where we were going. But we figured we were headed to Cuba, and they called it off before we got there," Neblett said. "We were on alert for two straight years during the height of Vietnam. We were prepared to go anywhere in the world."

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Dawn Whitlock, who served in the Army from 1980-2000, was a supply sergeant stationed in various locations around the world.

A native of Michigan, she moved to Jefferson City after she retired from the Army.

"I came to Jefferson City because it was quiet," Whitlock said. "I came here to raise my kids, and now I'm raising my grandkids here."

Through their children, Whitlock met fellow Army and National Guard veteran Joe Jimmerson who served 30 years stationed in places such as Germany, Korea, Alaska and Japan.

"When we were young, the Army used to have the commercial that said, 'Be all you can be,' and we did," Whitlock said. "I wouldn't trade my experiences for anything. The difference between my birthday and Veterans Day is I was given my birthday, but I earned this one (Veterans Day). That makes a big difference."

"If I had it to do all over again, I would do it again," Jimmerson added.

Whitlock said: "What amazes me is that I can still be in awe of the veterans, like those that served in Korea or Vietnam, and that's because their experiences are so much different than ours."

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The main Veterans Day remembrance in the Capital City was the annual Jefferson City Veterans Council Veterans Day Program at the American Legion on Tanner Bridge Road.

The council is made up of groups representing the American Legion, Marine Corps League, VFW, Navy Club of Missouri and Disabled American Veterans.

The featured speaker was Troy Williams, VFW past state commander. He served in the Marine Corps and fought in Desert Storm. His grandfather served in World War II and the Korean War while his father and uncles served in Vietnam.

Williams encouraged the crowd to make sure that veterans know what benefits and rights they have because of their military service and encourage them to seek help from the Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies to remove the stigmas associated with asking for help for things like post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

"We need to remind all veterans that their service matters and their well-being matters, especially to us," Williams said.

He asked the veterans in the crowd to reach out to the newest generation of veterans, those who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq, by offering support as they transition back into civilian life.

"Veterans Day is not just a holiday, it's a call to action," Williams said. "We must wake up a nation and remind our youth what price was paid for their freedom and what the term, "Duty, Honor, Country," means."

This story will be updated and more photos published in Friday's News Tribune.

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