As citizens lined the Center of Clayton, the sight of the American flag and the sounds of the United States Air Force Band playing the National Anthem brought a patriotic mood Wednesday.
A first-year event, the City of Clayton along with St. Louis OASIS held a Veterans Day celebration ceremony inside the Center of Clayton, decorated with American flags and military memorabilia, and were joined by a bevy of attendees, including local officials and State Representative and retired Marine Colonel Jack Jackson.
Clayton Mayor Harold Sanger, a veteran himself, served as the welcome speaker during the event, and thanked each of the 15 veterans in attendance for their service to the country.
“These kind of events really make my heart warm,” Mayor Sanger said. “To have you all here doesn’t seem to be the appreciation that their really needs to be for all of you who are veterans, and especially for the spouses because that’s where the heartache really comes in. Blessings to all of you and we’re delighted to have you.”
Jackson was the first of three guest speakers for this celebration of veterans. A Vietnam and Gulf War veteran as well as a former chief test pilot for the AV-8B Harrier at McDonell Douglas and Boeing, Jackson provided attendees with a detailed look at the way life was when he served with the Marines in two separate tours.
Jackson, now retired from the military and public service, also offered insight into what it truly means to be a veteran.
“When you put that uniform on, whether you keep it on two years or 20, when you take it off you’re a veteran for the rest of your life,” Jackson said. “Because of the great sacrifices they made for this great country of ours, we should always honor these veterans.”
Jackson, who has flown a Harrier over 600 times, also spoke about his time as a chief test pilot for the military jets.
His speech, which touched on the first time he ever hovered in a Harrier, was followed up by a performance from the United States Air Force Band of Mid-America, a group made up of four officers from Fort Leonard Wood.
Retired Air Force Captain Jim Pettit of the St. Louis Honor Flight was also on hand to provide information on upcoming flights, applications and more.
The mission of the St. Louis Honor Flight is to recognize veterans — most urgently World War II veterans — with a day of honor, remembrance and celebration by taking them on a one-day, all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. to visit the World War II Memorial, built to honor their service and sacrifice.
Retired Coast Guard Chief Betty Altnether wrapped up the celebration with a speech on the American Legion poppy flower history and also gave a demonstration.
Those in attendance, veterans and citizens alike, spent the rest of the morning mingling, sharing stories and admiring displays that recognized some of Clayton’s finest heroes.