The 122nd annual McKinley Day was attended by a few hundred people Thursday night at the Ag Building on the Missouri State Fairgrounds.

The event included dinner, a silent and live auction, and speeches by several Republican politicians.

Guest speaker for the evening was Harry Roberts, Missouri Military Advocate. He was named to the position in January of 2022, and his office is located in Jefferson City as part of MoDED. Roberts is only the second person to occupy the position. The military advocate is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Missouri Senate. The previous advocate served from 2016 through September of 2021, when he retired.

The idea for a military advocate came about when the federal government began the BRAC program, attempting to cut costs by reducing the country's military footprint and closing bases. Whiteman AFB has so far escaped the wrath of the BRAC.

Roberts noted that the A-10 program, served by the 442nd Fighter Wing, is scheduled to be divested at the end of 2028. “So we need another mission there to replace the A-10s,” Roberts said.

Missouri is 16th in the US for federal defense spending, he noted. “We've been as high as 11th “, Roberts said. ”We have 39,000 active duty and guard reserve and DOD civilians serving in Missouri.”

Roberts noted that “the decisions that are made today in Washington DC, will take five, 10, 15 years to play out. So we've got to have a constant connection with their folks, with their staff to make sure the communication gets there and the facts get there, so that they can do the best job that they can, for us here in Missouri.”

He added that the 442nd is a priority. “We know right now that that plane is going to become a legacy aircraft, based on the decisions that have been made by the Air Force, in 2028 ... So here this is 2023 and we're diligently trying to find that next mission .. the next aircraft fighter, and one of those options could very easily be the F-15-EX. The 131st used to fly F-15s in St. Louis and when they closed that unit down for that mission, they came to Whiteman and joined the B-2 mission ... the F-15-EX makes a lot of sense, it's also produced by Boeing in Missouri, that's another big plus,” Roberts told the crowd.

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The new B-21 will have three locations – Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota, Whiteman AFB, and possibly Dyess AFB in Texas.

The night was emceed by former state rep Dean Dohrman.

“We've got a lot of state representatives from around the central Missouri area,” commented emcee Dean Dohrman. “We've got senators, we've got statewide candidates. The first part of the program is informational; we're honoring our veterans and first responders, and that's a big part of what we do at this dinner. This year we were able to get Harry Roberts. He's going to give us an update on Whiteman. Then the politicians get to speak.”

The event, organized by Pettis County Republicans, was also the third annual "Freedom Rally."

McKinley Day

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