Camaraderie, community keep 26-year memorial tradition alive
By Senior Airman Nathan Dampf, 131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 21, 2014
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."