Armed Forces Day is today, a day set aside to honor members of our military forces. But every day should be a day to honor the men and women who devote their lives to protect us and to serve our country.
Sedalia, Missouri, has a very special tie to the nearby military base, Whiteman Air Force Base.
Lt. George A. Whiteman, born the eldest of ten children of John and Earlie Whiteman, graduated from Smith-Cotton High School in Sedalia and attended the Rolla School of Mines prior to enlisting in the service in 1939. Whiteman was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Air Corp, and volunteered for duty during World War II. Lt. Whiteman is believed to be the first American pilot killed during the assault on Pearl Harbor. His mother, upon learning of his death, was quoted in the Sedalia Democrat as saying, “It might have happened anytime, anywhere. We’ve got to sacrifice loved ones if we want to win this war.” Lt. Whiteman is forever a symbol of the ultimate sacrifice, the sacrifice of one’s life for a cause they believe in.
Today, Whiteman Air Force Base is home to more than 7,500 men and women, who are volunteering their time and, sometimes, their lives, to protect us and our country. As neighbors to the many stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base, the community of Sedalia works together to show its support for those who are defending our freedom. Members of the Sedalia Chamber Military Affairs Committee and the Whiteman Base Community Council volunteer to support the military in many ways…from sending care packages, serving Thanksgiving dinner, supplying home-baked cookies at Christmas time, or providing presents for Santa to deliver. Our annual picnic and pool party gives us a chance to get to know them and their families. Local support of this event is tremendous and allows us to extend a good neighbor concept with welcoming arms and friendly faces.
The benefits of this relationship extend past the gates of Whiteman Air Force Base into our community. They visit our businesses, dine in our restaurants, and attend our schools. They also volunteer countless hours in our community to show their appreciation of our support. From working with the Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels, and the local Food Pantry, these men and women are shining examples of dedication and loyalty.
How can you be a part of the Whiteman family? The Whiteman Base Community Council is represented by more than 300 members from 18 communities across the state, volunteering their time to support the men and women stationed at Whiteman. Each community is assigned a liaison squadron, and members of that unit participate in a wide range of events with their community partner. For more information, call the Whiteman Public Affairs office at (660) 687-6121 or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WhitemanBCC.
You are also invited to join us on Armed Forces Day, May 21, 2016, at 11 a.m. at Memorial Park Cemetery in Sedalia as we honor the life of Lt. George A. Whiteman. A short wreath-laying ceremony is held annually at his gravesite. Following the ceremony, you can learn more about Lt. Whiteman by visiting the Whiteman Corridor. His legacy is memorialized in a sculpture at Katy Park, featuring the plane he was flying at the time of his death and America’s premier stealth bomber, the B2, now stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base.
Dianne Simon writes for Rural Missourian Magazine.