By Mary McCleary Posner
Our corporate objectives since our founding in 1989 are five-fold:
Our Mission Statement is: To Honor and Remember those who served, those currently serving in our Armed Forces, Guard, Reserves and our Allies.
The year 2016 is our 28th Anniversary of our annual Celebration. In each of the prior years the events of the six-day weekend Celebration have grown in size, scope, public participation and national awareness.
I was born and raised in Columbia, MO, but lived and worked in New York City for 25 years. During that time my father (who was Dean of the Law School at MU and who had set an altitude record in a Curtis Jenny during WWI on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918 of 10,200 feet!) told me that I was able to enjoy the corporate career that I had because very brave men and women had risked their lives to give me the freedom to do so, and if I could ever figure out a way to say "Thank You", I should do it.
In 1987, when we moved ourselves and our corporation back to Missouri, I asked my ninety year old Mother what they did in Columbia on Memorial Day. She said, "The same thing they have been doing for 50 years. Five men gather at the Court House for five minutes of speeches. If it rains, they hold it in the garage of the funeral home.
So, we decided to have a parade.
The first year, 1989, we had a parade and two WWII warbirds, General Regis Urschler and his P-51 and a B-25. They overflew the parade in a salute to fallen comrades.
That first year, as taps were being played at the Veterans Memorials, the B-25 appeared over the Court House dome in one final tribute with smoke coming from one wing. It was a moment I will never forget.
However, one little old lady did call the police and told them we had shot down an airplane.
In 1990 we had a parade and a static display of aircraft at the Columbia Regional Airport. 2,000 people showed up to look at the planes.
In 1991 we had a parade, and a one-day airshow at the airport with planes flying.
The fourth year, 1992, we had a parade and more warbirds flying in a one-day airshow at the airport.
Then in 1993 the Blue Angels called and said they would like to come. Talk about heart-stopping Quantum Leaps! That year we expanded to a two-day Airshow and a Parade.
We always have a one hour "Salute to the Nation" ceremony each day at the Airshows. We hold thousands of people silent while we play our National Anthem, do a 21-Gun Salute to the Nation, lower the flags to half staff, read the 225 names that are on the Veterans Memorials at the Court House, and play taps. Then we escort our Honored Guests to Show Central behind a bagpipers band accompanied by our Tuskegee Airmen, WASPs and military reunion groups where they are introduced and recognized by the crowds.
In 1994 we introduced the tradition of a U.S. Military Team "jump-starting" our Salute to Veterans Parade on Memorial Day by parachuting into 8 intersections on Broadway in downtown Columbia. When the first jumper with the American Flag hits his mark in the center of 10th Street you can hear the roar of the crowd miles away. This year for our 28th annual Salute To Veterans Parade, the members of both the US Army Golden Knights and the Canadian Forces Skyhawks will be parachuting into the athletic field at Columbia College where the Parade will end and the Salute To The Nation ceremony will be held.
In addition to all the warbirds flying final passes at 1,000 feet over the parade as a salute to fallen comrades, we have had other thrilling moments, such as two F-14's, one of which was flown by a local graduate of our High School and the University of Missouri, going into after burner on their way home, and a C-141 transport with an all Missouri crew speaking live to the television audience saying good-bye to Columbia.
We are unique in another way. All of the weekends activities are FREE. There are no parking or admission fees for the Airshows or the Parade. We raise the money by contributions from civic groups, associations, corporations and individuals.
Another key element of our Celebration are the Honored Guests. Honored Guests have been a tradition since the late four-star Army General Richard Stilwell, who was our first. The second year we hosted the late four-star Marine Corps General Ray Davis, the most decorated living American veteran and who held the Medal of Honor. He returned to be with us at the 1997 Celebration
We now have over 3,000 volunteers, 100 committee chairmen, a monthly newsletter and monthly meetings. It is a 12-month effort on the part of thousands of people to Honor and Remember. Please join with us!