Sheppard, local officials honor POWs, MIAs during ceremonies

Crhys Meza stand at attention at the Sheppard Elementary School flag pole vigil Sept. 15 in respect to Prisoners-of-War and those Missing in Action. Pairs of students took turns during the shcool's annual vigil that coincides with POW/MIA Day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Jacob Corbin)

Crhys Meza stand at attention at the Sheppard Elementary School flag pole vigil Sept. 15 in respect to Prisoners-of-War and those Missing in Action. Pairs of students took turns during the shcool's annual vigil that coincides with POW/MIA Day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Jacob Corbin)

Brig. Gen. Richard Devereaux, 82nd Training Wing commander, and Vice Commander Col. Lansen Conley perform a 10-minute vigil at the wing flag pole Sept. 15. (U.S. Air Force photo/Sandy Wassenmiller)

Brig. Gen. Richard Devereaux, 82nd Training Wing commander, and Vice Commander Col. Lansen Conley perform a 10-minute vigil at the wing flag pole Sept. 15. (U.S. Air Force photo/Sandy Wassenmiller)

Retired Marine Lt. Clebe McClary, a Vietnam Veteran, salutes the state flags of the United States during a POW/MIA Day parade at the base parade grounds.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Sandy Wassenmiller)

Retired Marine Lt. Clebe McClary, a Vietnam Veteran, salutes the state flags of the United States during a POW/MIA Day parade at the base parade grounds. (U.S. Air Force photo/Sandy Wassenmiller)

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- An armless sleeve swayed in the early morning hours Sept. 15 as a Marine rendered a salute to groups of Airmen, Sailors and Soldiers that marched passed with the professionalism he's accustomed to. 

Retired Marine 1st Lt. Clebe McClary understands the sacrifices paid by those who were held in captivity for years before they were returned home, or those who have never returned home. 

He honored those men and women Sept. 15, as did guests at Sheppard's Prisoner-of-War/Missing in Action events. Lieutenant McClary served as the reviewing official for the annual POW/MIA parade, saluting each formation as they passed. 

After the parade, members of Team Sheppard and guests from the local community attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the Sheppard Heritage Center. 

Brig. Gen. Richard Devereaux, 82nd Training Wing commander, said the ceremony showed Sheppard's and the community's admiration of our POW's and those missing in action. 

"This (the wreath laying) is not just an example of Sheppard honoring our veterans, but of the community as well," General Devereaux said. 

The general also said it was an honor to participate in the wreath-laying ceremony with the mayors of Wichita Falls and Burkburnett. 

Looking upon the memorial at the Heritage center, General Devereaux said the motto "you will not be forgotten" came to mind. 

"It's a message we pass on to our new Airmen here at Sheppard," General Devereaux said. 

The general closed his remarks at the ceremony by acknowledging the current and past sacrifices of servicemembers. 

"We're fighting an unconventional war, but the risks to our servicemembers are the same," he said. "We need to reflect on the sacrifices that our POW's and MIA's have made, along with the sacrifices of their families, in service to our country." 

Following the wreath-laying, the Sheppard Club hosted a luncheon to honor POW/MIA day. 

The guest speaker for the luncheon was Lieutenant McClary. He spoke on a variety of topics focusing on his years of service during the Vietnam War, as well as his life since then. 

Lieutenant McClary started out by breaking the ice with a light hearted story about an encounter with a young child. The child wanted to know why Lieutenant McClary wore an eye patch and had a hook, asking "are you a pirate?" Lieutenant McClary was injured in Vietnam when his unit faced 150 enemy soldiers in Vietnam. 

He then went on to ask the veterans of wars since World War II to stand and be recognized, era-by-era, each group stood all the way up to the veterans of Operation Desert Storm. 

Speaking about his time serving in the Marine Corps, Lieutenant McClary explained why he joined the war. 

"I didn't have to go to Vietnam," Lieutenant McClary said. "I decided to go when I saw something I hope I never see again. I saw a young man burning a flag, and decided then to go enlist." 

Even after being injured in Vietnam, Lieutenant McClary has a positive outlook on life, stating that he believes it would be a good thing if everyone served in the military at one time or another. 

"A little discipline goes a long way," Lieutenant McClary said. 

Following Lieutenant McClary's address to the guests at a luncheon, General Devereaux offered some final words. 

The general said when he arrived as a second lieutenant, recently graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy, POW's were still serving. 

"They were our role models," General Devereaux said. "It gave me a glimpse as to what wearing this uniform is all about."