BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - From the US Naval Research Lab at Stennis Space Center to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, thousands of military men and women call South Mississippi home. That's why the Gulf Coast Chamber hosts the annual Salute to the Military event as a small token of appreciation.
"It makes me feel very proud. It makes me feel honored that there's people that will give their lives for our country," said Rachael Seymour, who is interim director of the Gulf Coast Chamber.
Each year a top ranking military official is invited to speak at the event. This year's speaker, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, called Keesler Air Force Base the home of Air Force training.
"Most of our Air Force airmen at one point in their career or another come through Keesler for their important technical training," James said. "It's an important mobility training, as well. And then finally, who could ever forget the world famous Hurricane Hunters?"
James is responsible for the affairs of the Department of the Air Force and oversees its $139 billion budget, a task she calls an awesome responsibility.
"It's the honor and privilege of my professional lifetime," James said. "Although it sounds like a lot of people and a lot of money, given all of the many tasks that we are asked to do, cause we are globally engaged, it really is bare minimum."
Congressman Steven Palazzo said Secretary James played a key role in keeping the C-130Js at Keesler.
"This is a great night. The 75th anniversary of Keesler Air Force Base, 38th Salute to the Military, Secretary of the Air Force here. So great night to not just salute all our military friends, our veterans, and their families, but also to thank her for what she did for the Mississippi Gulf Coast," said Palazzo.
One deserving military member was awarded the annual Fredian Award.