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Gulf Coast, local military reinforce bonds at 39th Annual Salute to the Military

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
Hundreds of Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coastguardsmen and local community and business members attended the 39th Annual Salute to the Military, Oct. 24, at the Mississippi Coast Convention Center, Biloxi, Mississippi.

The event is held to highlight and thank service members from bases across the Gulf Coast.

Salute co-chairman and operations manager Bob Coniglione, said, “Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce members have been honoring our military neighbors in this very public way since 1978 – something no other American community can claim. This tradition has been very important to the military and to the community. Every year we have been able to bring one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or other top leaders to the Mississippi Coast to help honor our military neighbors.”

Throughout the evening, current and former military members were honored for their contributions to both the community and their service to the country.

In addition to highlighting service members, Salute to the Military is also an opportunity for military leaders and base personnel to meet state and local business, community and political figures.

Congressman Steven Palazzo, U.S. Representative for Mississippi’s fourth congressional district, was unable to attend this year’s event in person but offered remarks from Washington D.C. via video recording.

“Tonight we honor our military service members,” Palazzo said, “those who serve and strive valiantly for a worthy cause: the safety and security of our community, our state and our nation.”

Toward the end of the evening, six service members from the Gulf Coast were recognized as outstanding performers, both in their assigned duties and in the community.

“This helps us recognize outstanding leadership and community involvement,” said Tommy Murphy, Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce president.

Aviation Electronics Technician First Class Adrian Piñeiro, Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit Keesler, from Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, was honored with the Thomas V. Fredian Community Leadership Award, a recognition given each year to an enlisted military member from a local base.

Piñeiro is an instructor at the calibration school at CNATTU Keesler and is responsible for providing technical and administrative support for Navy students. He personally delivered over 1,400 hours of college level curriculum to joint and international students. He also serves as the command’s community service coordinator, organizing all aspects of community service for 68 staff and more than 700 students.

As a result of earning the Thomas V. Fredian Award, Piñeiro has been invited to attend President Donald Trumps’s next State of the Union address as Congressman Steven Palazzo’s guest.

After the award presentation, the guest speaker, Maj. Gen. David G. Bellon, U.S. Marine Forces South commander, shared his personal thoughts on the bond between the community and military members.

“I am blown away that this has been going on for 39 years,” Bellon said. “Well before ‘thank you for your service’ became something you heard at every TSA [Transportation Security Administration] check point when you show your military ID. It’s something those of us in uniform sincerely appreciate.”

Over the 39 years this event has existed, the military has seen a generational shift on the men and women who fill the ranks. Bellon spoke about the new generation of Marines and service members he sees taking up the profession of arms today.

“Millennials this, millennials that,” Bellon said. “They get beat up pretty bad and it’s a bunch of you-know-what. The previous generation always says the next generation is not good enough. Let me tell you, this generation will fight. And they will sacrifice and they will create success where there is zero potential for success. It’s just up to us to create the circumstances where that comes alive.”

He concluded his speech explaining that the military ultimately wants to make better citizens so they return to their communities to build and support the next generation.

“For all of the leaders and sponsors who made this night possible, I cannot express to you how important it is to keep this ember burning, and I promise you the payoff is still to come, even after our service,” said Bellon.