SecAF honors Gulf Coast military members during annual salute
By Senior Airman Heather Heiney, 403rd Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 26, 2016
KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James was the guest speaker at the 38th annual Gulf Coast Salute to the Military event here Oct. 25.
For nearly four decades people from across the Mississippi Gulf Coast have set aside one night to come together, enjoy each other’s company and honor military men and women.
“Salute to the Military gives us an opportunity each year to honor those who serve. Thank you to our men and women in the military,” Congressman Steven Palazzo, host of the 38th annual Salute to the Military said.
This year, attendees walked through a gallery of art and artifacts depicting the military history. They stood in silence to honor the more than 100 Mississippi military members who gave their lives in the line of duty. They watched video tributes that celebrated Keesler Air Force Base’s 75th anniversary and told the stories of four military women who served in a time when opportunities for women in the military were limited. They cheered for the veterans in the room from each of the United States’ major conflicts, including the handful of World War II veterans that were present for the evening.
“Having the opportunity to attend this year’s Salute to the Military was a great honor,” Col. Michael Manion, 403rd Wing commander said. “It’s an illustration of the true partnership that we have with the people here on the coast and a reminder that our work in Air Force Reserve is part of a much greater picture.”
“Mississippi and the Gulf Coast region play a critical role in our national security,” Secretary James said.
She detailed Keesler’s Navy, Marine and Coast Guard partners as well as the skills provided to Air Force members through the 81st Training Wing, the 403rd Wing’s new 36th Aeromedical Evacuation unit and the critical data collection of the Air Force Reserve’s Hurricane Hunters.
“Being on the Gulf Coast you know good and well that the Hurricane Hunters fly their missions to save American lives,” she said.
She also mentioned the thousands of volunteer hours coast military members complete every year as well as the work they do to promote Science Technology, Engineering and Math career fields to children and teenagers across the region.
“These are only a few of the dozens of incredible things that members at Keesler are doing,” James said. “I am very, very proud of our military and I’m especially proud of our Air Force.
James also said that Biloxi and the Gulf Coast do so much for our Airmen that it’s no surprise so many of them choose to make a permanent home on the Gulf Coast after they complete their military service.
“We could not do it without having all of you standing behind all of us every step of the way,” she said. “Thank you for all that you do to support us.”