A crowd of several hundred people gathered around O’Fallon’s Veterans Memorial on Wednesday to show show gratitude to those who served and celebrate the city’s long, rich relationship with the military.
Army Major General David Clarkson said it is support of communities like O’Fallon that keep members of the military going strong.
“We appreciate your unwavering and unrivaled support of Scott Air Force Base,” Clarkson said. “You continue to make military families a priority.”
Deeply touched by the strong attendance and the Veterans Day program was Marjorie Ballard, whose husband, Norris, was a veteran of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam.
Norris Ballard flew combat missions in the first two wars before training to become an air traffic controller, a position he held in the Air Force during Vietnam and the Cold War until his retirement in 1973.
We’re very proud of him. He would be thrilled to see all of these people here today. He loved serving his country. It’s because of people like him that we’re free.
Marjorie Ballard, whose husband, Norris, was a veteran of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam
“We’re very proud of him,” Majorie Ballard said. “He would be thrilled to see all of these people here today. He loved serving his country. It’s because of people like him that we’re free.”
Norris Ballard, who retired as a chief master sergeant, died in 2000 and is buried in Jefferson Barracks Cemetery.
O’Fallon City Clerk Phil Goodwin, an Air Force veteran of 125 combat missions before he retired to the metro-east, said the Veterans Day crowds have grown every year in the decade since the city dedicated its memorial to those who served.
“It just keeps getting bigger,” Goodwin said. “This is such a great gathering place and such a great military community. We’re proud of our relationship with the armed services in O’Fallon.”
Prior to statements from Clarkson, Goodwin and others, a ceremony to lower the worn American and POW-MIA flags at the monument and replace them with new ones and a rifle salute, a choir of students from District 90 elementary schools and St. Clair School sang patriotic songs and the theme songs of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy.
Goodwin said it was great not only to hear the kids sing, but also to expose them to history and make sure the next generation remembers those who served their country.\