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Camaraderie, community keep 26-year memorial tradition alive

Members of 2nd Lt. George A. Whiteman's family laid the wreath at the tombstone of their fallen uncle May 17, 2014, at Memorial Park Cemetery in Sedalia, Missouri. Airmen of the 509th Security Forces Squadron, Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri., stand at attention in the background as the invocation was read before the ceremony. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Nathan Dampf/Released)

Members of 2nd Lt. George A. Whiteman's family laid the wreath at the tombstone of their fallen uncle May 17, 2014, at Memorial Park Cemetery in Sedalia, Missouri. Airmen of the 509th Security Forces Squadron, Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri., stand at attention in the background as the invocation was read before the ceremony. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Nathan Dampf/Released)

Cadets of the Sedalia Smith-Cotton High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program raise the flag at the grave site of 2nd Lt. George A. Whiteman, May 17, 2014. The cadets participate in the event every year as part of the Sedalia, Mo., community's Armed Forces remembrance ceremony by raising the flag and singing the national anthem. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Nathan Dampf/Released)

Cadets of the Sedalia Smith-Cotton High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program raise the flag at the grave site of 2nd Lt. George A. Whiteman, May 17, 2014. The cadets participate in the event every year as part of the Sedalia, Mo., community's Armed Forces remembrance ceremony by raising the flag and singing the national anthem. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Nathan Dampf/Released)

Family members of 2nd Lt. George A. Whiteman look on as Sedalia Smith-Cotton High-School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Cadet Megan Wilbanks prepares to lower the flag during the Armed Forces Day ceremony in Sedalia, Missouri., May 17, 2014. More than 50 family members of Whiteman attended the ceremony, carrying on a tradition that began 26 years ago. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Nathan Dampf/Released)

Family members of 2nd Lt. George A. Whiteman look on as Sedalia Smith-Cotton High-School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Cadet Megan Wilbanks prepares to lower the flag during the Armed Forces Day ceremony in Sedalia, Missouri., May 17, 2014. More than 50 family members of Whiteman attended the ceremony, carrying on a tradition that began 26 years ago. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Nathan Dampf/Released)

Members of the Sedalia Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2591 fold the flag that was raised over 2nd Lt. George A. Whiteman’s grave during the Armed Forces Day remembrance ceremony May 17, 2014, in Sedalia, Missouri. The veterans raised the flag and provided a three-shot gun salute during the event. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Nathan Dampf/Released)

Members of the Sedalia Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2591 fold the flag that was raised over 2nd Lt. George A. Whiteman’s grave during the Armed Forces Day remembrance ceremony May 17, 2014, in Sedalia, Missouri. The veterans raised the flag and provided a three-shot gun salute during the event. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Nathan Dampf/Released)

Lt. Col. Christopher Nieman, commander of the 509th Security Forces Squadron, Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., holds the folded flag as Joe Cochran, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2591, salutes during an Armed Forces Day ceremony May 17, 2014, in Sedalia, Mo. Nieman and more than 50 Airmen of the 509th SFS stood alongside family members of 2nd Lt. George A. Whiteman, Sedalia Veterans and cadets, and community members. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Nathan Dampf/Released)

Lt. Col. Christopher Nieman, commander of the 509th Security Forces Squadron, Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., holds the folded flag as Joe Cochran, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2591, salutes during an Armed Forces Day ceremony May 17, 2014, in Sedalia, Mo. Nieman and more than 50 Airmen of the 509th SFS stood alongside family members of 2nd Lt. George A. Whiteman, Sedalia Veterans and cadets, and community members. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Nathan Dampf/Released)

Veterans of VFW Post 2591 raise their rifles for a three-shot volley in salute of fallen 2nd Lt. George A. Whiteman during a remembrance ceremony for Armed Forces Day in Sedalia, Missouri., May 17, 2014. VFW members joined the ceremony that was coordinated by the Sedalia Area Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee, carrying on a tradition that began 26 years ago. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Nathan Dampf/Released

Veterans of VFW Post 2591 raise their rifles for a three-shot volley in salute of fallen 2nd Lt. George A. Whiteman during a remembrance ceremony for Armed Forces Day in Sedalia, Missouri., May 17, 2014. VFW members joined the ceremony that was coordinated by the Sedalia Area Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee, carrying on a tradition that began 26 years ago. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Nathan Dampf/Released

SEDALIA, Missouri -- More than 120 onlookers stood in tribute as the nephews of fallen Airman 2nd Lt. George A. Whiteman placed a patriotic wreath on their uncle's grave as part of the Armed Forces Day remembrance Saturday.

The 26th Memorial Wreath Laying Ceremony at Memorial Park Cemetery here brought family members and city residents together in what served as a display of military family and community.

"In all of my eight assignments I've not seen such a close relationship," said Lt. Col. Christopher Nieman, commander of the 509th Security Forces Squadron. "The 'sister-city' relationship has been outstanding. It's an honor to be a part of it and to help recognize the namesake of Whiteman Air Force Base during events like today."

The event is held every year in conjunction with Armed Forces Day and is coordinated by the Military Affairs Committee of the Sedalia Area Chamber of Commerce.
Whiteman Air Force Base and Sedalia often coordinate events similar to Saturday's ceremony. More than 50 Airmen of the 509th SFS stood alongside family members of 2nd Lt. Whiteman, members of the Sedalia Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee, local Veterans and members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2591, and cadets of the Smith-Cotton High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program.

"The camaraderie of the communities is what keeps the event going," said event coordinator Dave Rouchka of the planning committee. "Whiteman Air Force Base has always been very helpful providing flyovers in the past and Airmen for the ceremony. And, it's been wonderful developing those relationships and sharing stories over the years with friends and family of 2nd Lt. Whiteman."

The event honors the sacrifice of the lieutenant, who was shot down during the attack on Pearl Harbor. When the attack began, Whiteman rushed to his aircraft to take the fight to the Japanese attackers.

"That legacy of valor continues out at Whiteman today," said U.S. Rep. Vicki Hartzler of the 4th District of Missouri, who was the keynote speaker for the event. "We have multiple missions out there, but they all are projecting the same dedication and valor that 2nd Lt. Whiteman showed that day in Oahu."