AFD Luncheon honors military: Past, present and future

May 5—Military veterans and current military members were honored during the Armed Forces Day Luncheon in McAlester.

Those who will serve in the future were given a nod as well during the AFD Luncheon held Friday at the Scottish Rite Temple.

U.S. Marine Corps Major Andrew Manaois, commanding officer of Marine Corps Recruiting Station, Oklahoma City, served as featured speaker for the event.

He addressed the many veterans in attendance.

"The legacy that all of you have is proud," he said. "It gives us who are serving something to look up to."

He also praised current members of the U.S. Marine Corps as well as those who will become Marines in the future.

Manaois gave a nod to "You men and women who will become the next generation of Marines and undoubtedly go on to win our nation's battles."

He noted Marine recruiters had a tough time over the past few years, especially when COVID-19 protocols prevented them from entering schools and talking to young people about enlisting in the military.

They rose to the challenge, he said.

Manaois asked veterans and others to get involved. He asked veterans to relay the stories of their time in the military and to talk about patriotism.

"What I'm asking is for everyone in this room to spread the word," Manaois said.

"The Marines are ready to do the nation's bidding. Your Marine Corps is highly motivated," he said, "and ready to serve."

Next up for Armed Forces Day activities is the AFD Parade, set for 10 a.m. Saturday, May 6, in downtown McAlester.

Dennis Wilson, past president of the Indian Chapter of the Scottish Rite Society, welcomed those attending the AFD Luncheon.

He quoted from a speech given by the nation's 40th president, Ronald Reagan. Wilson noted how Regan said "Patriotism is defined as love for or devotion to one's country, and that can't be bought."

"Many of you today are a big part of this," Wilson said to those members of the military, both present and former, who attended the AFD Luncheon.

He said he and others attending the event "want to express our heartfelt appreciation."

He noted this is the 76th year for Armed Forces Day activities in McAlester, with the spotlight this year on the Marine Corps.

It's also the 80th anniversary of the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in McAlester. It began production in August, 1943, when it was then known as the Naval Ammunition Depot.

In 1977, the U.S. Department of Defense designated the U.S. Army as the single manufacturer of conventional ammunition for the nation's military, which led to the depot being named the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant.

Fallen McAlester Police officer and former member of the U.S. Army Joseph Lee Barlow, and U.S. Marine Corps and Korean War veteran Bertha May Brock were honored during the Missing Man Ceremony.

McAlester Police Chief Kevin Hearod shared the story of Barlow's life with those attending the luncheon.

Barlow joined the military and attended boot camp while still in high school. He served eight years with the U.S. Army and the Army Reserves.

He also served as bugler for many military funerals.

Barlow served three years as a correctional officer at the Jackie Brannon Correctional Center, before becoming a McAlester police officer, where he became involved beyond his regular police duties.

"He joined the honor guard for the McAlester Police Department," Hearod said.

"He was selfless in every way and our community cannot thank him enough."

Christina Thurber, Regent of the Kilihoti Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, shared the story of Brock's life and military service, including her service during the Korean War.

McAlester Mayor John Browne conducted the Missing Man Ceremony in honor of Barlow and Brock.

We should have everlasting love and care for our fallen comrades, Browne said.

"Always remember," he said. "Their chairs are empty; they are missing. Never forget." Browne had those attending him join in a moment of silence.

Following the Missing Man ceremony, Dory Francis sang a rendition of "Amazing Grace."

Special Forces Sgt. Harry A. Walling, who was awarded the Silver Star after being killed in action during the Vietnam War, also received special recognition.

Family members of the honorees attended the luncheon.

Armed Forces Day Committee Chairman Jeff Wolf also addressed those attending.

"We are symbolically wrapping our arms around the veterans of our community," he said. "Thank you for your service."

During the opening ceremonies, McAlester Army Ammunition Plant Commander Col. Michael Hammond led the Pledge of Allegiance. Pastor Casey McCoy of the Savanna First Baptist Church delivered the invocation.

Francis sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" during the luncheon's opening ceremonies.

Sapulpa High School Marine Corps Jr. ROTC members posted the presentation and removal of colors for the event. A musician known as Captain Adrian played bagpipes as the colors were being posted.

Waiters and waitresses from local restaurants served the meals and waited on the tables during the luncheon, with local musician Ralph Cox performing a wide selection of classic rock and country music for the event.