On May 1, 2019, the first-ever regional Community Salute to Service was held at the Waynesville High School Gymnasium, where 60 South Central Missouri high school seniors were honored for having committed to serving in the United States military. Honorees included those who have enlisted in the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard; National Guard; Reserves; attending college through the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program; or have received an appointment to one of the United States military academies.
The night began with the Army’s 399th Army Band Quintet providing opening music as those being recognized marched into the Waynesville High School gymnasium where nearly 800 community members, elected and appointed leaders, military leaders, families and friends greeted them with a thunderous round of applause. Following the welcoming remarks by the Waynesville R-VI School District Superintendent Dr. Brain Henry, the Waynesville Junior ROTC Color Guard posted the colors. The Army band then brought the crowd to its feet with a beautiful rendition of the national anthem which was followed by the introduction of Missouri Governor Mike Parson by Dr. Henry.
Governor Parson’s motivational remarks to the honorees included congratulating the seniors for their commitment to serve, thanking their parents and loved ones for their support, and sharing stories of his own military service as an enlisted Military Policeman. Governor Parson’s comments were followed by the event’s keynote speaker Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood Commanding General, Major General Donna Martin.
General Martin thanked all of those in attendance for being present and showing their support for this unique and important event. She thanked Dr. Henry and the Waynesville R-VI School District team for taking on the task of putting together the event that pulled so many community members, high schools, and future service members together to celebrate their choice to serve following graduation. She also thanked Governor Parson and the Commissioner of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Dr. Margie Vandeven for being present at the event.
Following General Martin’s inspirational remarks, Dr. Henry presented Governor Parson and General Martin a Waynesville School District coin of excellence for being a part of the special occasion.
The formal recognition then began by announcing each honoree’s name, high school and branch of service as they walked up on stage where they were congratulated by General Martin or the respective senior officer from their branch of service alongside Governor Parson. General Martin congratulated each new member of the United States Army; FLW Marine Corp Detachment Commander Colonel Ralph Rizzo Jr. congratulated those joining the Marines; FLW Navy Detachment Commander Lieutenant Nicholas Gegg congratulated the newest Navy recruits; 368th Air Force Training Squadron Commander Lt. Colonel Josh Aldred congratulated the newest Air Force recruits.
As part of their recognition each honoree posed at center stage for a photograph with Governor Parson and the senior military officer congratulating them for their willingness to serve. Each individual also received a joint letter of congratulations from U.S. Representative Vicky Hartzler, U.S. Representative Jason Smith, and U.S. Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer.
“As a community we have a lot to be proud of, first and foremost we are proud of these courageous high school seniors, we are proud of our Commanding General, General Martin and her vision to hold such a unique ceremony here in our community, proud of Dr. Henry’s leadership and his team in making this outstanding event happen, and we are certainly proud of the number of folks from our communities that came out to show their support. We are very thankful that Governor Parson and Dr. Vandeven were on hand to join us all in saying thank you to those going on to serve our country in uniform,” said Dorsey Newcomb of the Sustainable Ozarks Partnership.