'Tigers' Honor Missouri Servicemembers at Military Appreciation Day

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Traci Howells
  • 131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Amidst a sea of black and gold, America's colors flew proudly as nearly 67,000 University of Missouri football fans honored 10 Missouri servicemembers at Faurot Field here Saturday. 

The recognition was part of the 17th annual National Adopt A Warrior Program, hosted by the United States Exercise Tiger Foundation.  The 10 honorees were chosen out of 79 nomination packages to represent active duty, Guard and reserve component military members assigned in Missouri.

The honorees included Staff Sgt. Daniel Middleton, a tactical data link coordinator from the 157th Air Operations Group at Jefferson Barracks Air National Guard Base, Missouri.  Middleton was recognized for his work during a 240-day deployment in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Inherent Resolve.  As an interface control technician, Middleton was responsible for providing an accurate air picture to combat aircraft and ensuring the safety of flight of U.S. and allied combat aircraft engaged in the Global War on Terror. 

"It really means a lot that my supervision thought enough to nominate me for this honor," Middleton said.  "I didn't think I was doing anything out of the ordinary, I was just doing my job."

The group was hosted for the weekend in Columbia.  In addition to the recognition ceremony, the group was treated to an awards banquet on Friday night, as well as a breakfast the morning of the game.  At the banquet, Middleton received the Master Sgt. Lee A. Messina Trophy for Outstanding Enlisted Achievement, and the U.S. Exercise Tiger Foundation's Medal of Combat Valor. 

The Adopt A Warrior Program is presented by the U.S. Exercise Tiger Foundation, which was named after the Battle of Exercise Tiger in April 1944.  During this U.S. Navy training exercise in preparation for the D-Day assault on Normandy, France, eight allied ships were attacked by German forces, and many lives were lost.  However, the operation was kept classified for more than 50 years and its heroes went unacknowledged.  The foundation's mission is to honor servicemembers from all branches and ensure that no military Veteran is forgotten.

Susan Haines, the national executive director of the USTF, has overseen the organization of the Adopt A Warrior Program each year since its start.  The planning, she said, is a15-month long process, and while one event is taking place, the next year's is already in the works.

"In all of my 17 years, I've never gotten tired of organizing such an awe-inspiring event," Haines said.  "It is so wonderful to be part of a program that honors our military."

The Missouri servicemembers honored are:

· Maj. Jack Windes, executive officer, 1-135th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, Missouri Army National Guard, Whiteman AFB, Mo.
· Capt. David Leonard, deputy wing chaplain, 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman AFB, Mo.
· Senior Master Sgt. Brian Little, advanced airlift tactics training superintendent, 139th Airlift Wing, Missouri Air National Guard,    
   Rosecrans ANGB, Mo.
· Gunnery Sgt. Sidney Richards, assistant Marine officer instructor for the Navy ROTC at the University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo.
· Sgt. First Class Colon Estrada, 94th Engineer Detachment, Canine Company, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
· Master Sgt. Dan Hatch, acting chief, 442nd Fighter Wing, Air Force Reserve Command, Whiteman AFB, Mo.
· Tech. Sgt. Dustin Schwartz, assistant section chief, 442nd Fighter Wing, AFRC, Whiteman AFB, Mo.
· Sgt. Lori Beth Singer-Bare, E Company, 1-148th Infantry Regiment, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
· Staff Sgt. Charles Felker, senior drill sergeant, C Company, 1-148th Infantry Regiment, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
· Staff Sgt. Daniel  Middleton, tactical data link coordinator, 131st Bomb Wing, Missouri Air National Guard, Jefferson Barracks   
  ANGB, Mo.

Prior to the kickoff of the Mizzou-South Carolina football game, the official party joined the honorees on the field for a special tribute to military forces and a presentation of a wreath in conjunction with the school's Military Appreciation Day event.  The official party included Gen. Robin Rand, Air Force Global Strike Command commander; Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets IV, 509th Bomb Wing commander; Brig. Gen. Randy Alewel, commander, Land Component, Missouri Army National Guard; and Col. Michael Francis, 131st BW commander.

The entire stadium became quiet for a moment of silence, and the crowd paid their respects as the honor guard posted the colors and Marching Mizzou played the national anthem.  Two Whiteman T-38 Talon trainer jets performed a flyover to wrap up the pre-kickoff ceremony.

"I'm very proud of all our members of the armed forces who were recognized today.  It really goes to show what high-caliber Airmen and Soldiers we have serving this country," said Francis.  "It was a fantastic event and a great way to honor all of our Missouri military members who do so much in service to our nation."