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University of Central Missouri
Warrensburg, MO 64093
Contact Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (May 18, 2012) – Former Congressman Ike Skelton still recalls the prophetic words of his father who spoke to a class of Odessa High School students on Nov. 11, 1941.
The younger Skelton was sitting in the audience when he heard his dad, a Lexington attorney, talk about the sacrifices of the men and women who served in World War I. With great confidence, he told the Armistice Day gathering “there are heroes in the audience who may very well have to fight for their freedom again.” He was right. On Dec. 7, 1941, Ike Skelton and his uncle were traveling in a vehicle to Lexington listening to the radio when they heard an announcer say the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Among those sent to fight for their country were some of those individuals who had heard the father of the future U.S. Representative and chair of the powerful House Armed Services Committee speak only a few weeks earlier.
Skelton shared that experience in Warrensburg Thursday with about 200 people who attended the Pre-Memorial Day Program, “Honoring Our World War II Veterans,” at Northside Christian Church. Among those in attendance were 47 individuals who served in the military during WWII. Those individuals received a standing ovation when publicly recognized by Alex Slocum, commander of American Legion Post 131. The event was the final segment of a three-part University of Central Missouri Lifelong Learning series on “World War II in American Memory,”
During his remarks, Skelton retraced the contributions of military personnel in the local area, recalling how he once saw a C-47 aircraft pulling a glider from the Sedalia Army Airfield, which prepared paratroopers to fight in the invasion of Normandy in 1944. That same airfield eventually became a part of Whiteman Air Force Base, which has a long history of serving the nation in capacities that have included being a missile wing and most recently, home of the B-2 Stealth Bomber.
Skelton also spoke about the individuals he knew personally who served in World War II, and the impact the war had on them and their families. The strong connection he developed with these individuals contributed to his desire to be a champion for causes that impact those who service in the military, including such efforts as working for improved education programs for service men and women, better health care for wounded and disabled soldiers, and efforts to provide essential equipment needed for those who are currently serving. His interest in the nation’s military continues today through his presidential appointment to the American Battle Monuments Commission. This group manages 25 overseas military cemeteries, and 25 memorials, monuments and markers to honor those who served in World War I and World War II.
Skelton believes the nation owes much gratitude to those who fought for their country. Looking at the veterans, he said, “Let me tell you what you have done – the crusade in which you have served will long be remembered, and written in the history books as no other fight for freedom known to man. You should be proud of that, and every American should be proud.”
“So many of you are very humble and don’t wish to talk about it,” he added, “but wherever you were, whether it was overseas in Europe or right here in America, you did something that no other countryman could or will do again.”
Additional remarks were provided by Charles Ambrose, university president, and Brig. Gen. Scott Vander Hamm, commander of the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base.
Participants in the event included the UCM Department of Military Science and Leadership, Matthews-Crawford Post 131 of The American Legion, William A. Carleton Post 2513 of the VFW, and Missouri Veterans Home, all of Warrensburg. The Clinton High School Junior ROTC Honor Guard posted and retired the colors. UCM professor emeritus of music, Neal Seipp, played “To the Colors” and “Taps” on the trumpet; KMOS-TV Coordinator of Corporate and Community Support, Mark Pearce, accompanied by Alice Coleman, lead the audience in singing “God Bless America;” retired UCM Health Center staff member Shirley Briscoe sung “May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You;” and “Four Good Friends” of Sweet Adelines International closed the program with “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” Warrensburg attorney Bob Welling introduced Skelton, and Lt. Col. Chris Leljedal, chair of the UCM Department of Military Science, served as Master of Ceremonies.