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.
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 about it now, it still hurts."
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."
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.
"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," Whitlock said.
Honoring veterans is something residents and staff at Heisinger Bluffs Retirement Community do on more than just Veterans Day. But on this special day, they make sure to celebrate.
A ceremony was held Thursday afternoon to thank residents who served in all military branches along with the wives and widows of spouses who served.
"The wives held down the home front, raised the children and many had to go to work in place of the husbands who were off to serve," said Rita Rivera, Heisinger Bluffs lifestyle enrichment director. "I promise that what your loved ones did and what you did will never be forgotten."
For one Heisinger Assisted Living resident and World War II veteran, the celebration this year will become a two-day event.
Today, Lon Douglas turns 100.
"After that, I start all over with No. 1," Douglas said with a laugh.
Douglas served in the Army Air Crops from 1941-45.
"After the war ended, it seemed everything stopped for a while," Douglas said. "Everyone was just so happy it was over; they wanted to celebrate for a while."
Douglas did not see combat, but did fly reconnaissance missions over the Gulf of Mexico while stationed in Texas.
"They suspected there might be an invasion along that area by the Germans and Japanese," Douglas said. He thought about being a pilot, but ended up becoming a navigator, flying on C-47s.
"I was initially trained on aerial gunnery on B-17s, and I worked on machine guns, putting them in airplanes and servicing them," Douglas said. "I applied for cadet training. and there was the choice of pilot, navigator or bombardier. The pilot's training was all filled up, so I took the next thing they had and that was navigator."
Born in St. Louis, Douglas and his wife, Mary Lou, came to Jefferson City as newlyweds in 1948.
Douglas said it was nice to have fellow veterans at Heisinger to talk to and reminisce about their times in the service.
"Every last Thursday of the month, we have a veterans luncheon, and we all get together," Douglas said. "The younger folks who served in Korea or Vietnam have just as much to talk about as we do."
At St. Peter Catholic Church, the sun emerged from the clouds Thursday morning to create dramatic shadows of the veterans as they conducted the annual Veterans Day tribute in downtown Jefferson City.
The pageantry included honor guard members from the Samuel F. Gearhart Detachment of the Marine Corps League performing the Three Volley Rifle Salute. Navy veteran Jack Dayton, who served eight years active service and 20 years in the Navy Reserves, delivered the Veterans Day tribute.
As the service at the church concluded, St. Peter students stood on the steps of the church, holding banners that thanked the veterans for their service to the country.
As part of their observance of Veterans Day on Thursday, National Honor Society students from Russellville High School were joined by Future Farmers of America students in placing bows on wreaths that later will decorate veterans' graves in the Jefferson City National Cemetery in December.
Wreaths for Heroes, which donated the wreaths that they have used for several years to area parishes and some schools to be used at those local cemeteries, purchased 1,600 new wreaths for the annual commemoration.
Volunteers from St. Mary's Hospital Auxiliary made 1,600 bows for the new wreaths, and students are assembling the new ribbons and wreaths.
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 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."