KEESLER AFB, BILOXI (WLOX) - Second Lt. Samuel Reeves Keesler, Jr. entered the army air service on May 13, 1917, and a few decades later, Keesler Air Force base was created in his honor. The base held a ceremony honoring its namesake Friday as part of it's year-long 75th anniversary celebration.
Hundreds of airmen marched in a traditional retreat ceremony in front of the headquarters building for a crowd of Keesler leadership, staff, veterans and local civic leaders.
"We take great pride in Keesler and, rightfully so," said Cliff Kirkland in place of Biloxi Mayor FoFo Gilich. "And we'd like to think that pride is reciprocated."
A folding detail dressed in traditional WWII period uniforms lowered and folded the flag while an airman played TAPS.
Chief Warrant Officer Thomas Adams Jr. and Lt. Colonel Henry Burkle were both stationed at Keesler during WWII. According to them, the changes are numerous.
"The things that really stand out were these nice paved roads that we had, (they) were nothing but oyster shells," said Burkle.
"Everything is going to change, but it will all be the same," said Adams. "Nice young men who got a yearning for the Air Force and, I hope, airplanes."
But it's not all men these days. One major change at Keesler is Colonel Michele Edmonson. Seventy-five years ago, women weren't even allowed to serve.
"It's certainly a wonderful opportunity and it gives me an opportunity to be a mentor and a role model for so many young airmen," said Edmonson. "About 20 percent of the force today is female and so i really think it's important that we give them role models and that i do everything I can to help bring up the next generation."
And Colonel Edmonson expects that number to greatly increase in the next 75 years.