Wing Commander and 562nd Band participate in Veteran’s Day celebration at Reagan National Library
By Senior Airman Nichole Ramirez, 146 AW
/ Published December 03, 2009
SIMI VALLEY, Calif. -- Wing Commander of the 146th Airlift Wing, Col. Paul Hargrove, spoke to a crowd of more than 1,000 people to honor World War II veteran, retired Lt. Col. Clyde East Nov. 11 at the Reagan National Library in Simi Valley, Calif.
The event started off with a flyover of a C-17 Globemaster III and pack of Black Hawk UH-60s prior to the ceremony. Accompanied by the Sequoia Middle School Choir, the 562nd band played patriotic favorites to include "Grand Old Flag" and "Proud to be an American."
Lauren Arias, the program specialist for the library, opened up the ceremony with great thanks to all who serve and have served, and all their families. She recalled how President Reagan had a special place in his heart for veterans and recounted his words.
"Each time our nation has called on our citizens, the best have come forward," said Arias.
Colonel Hargrove was introduced and spoke to a standing-room-only venue to honor retired Lt. Col. Clyde East, a World War II pilot who flew P-51 Mustangs and F-84s.
Colonel Hargrove described Colonel East as a humble man, but a true American hero. He recounted the impressive history of Colonel East and how privileged he was to have met "Clyde" before introducing the veteran to the waiting crowd.
With over 300 missions under his belt, the 88-year-old retired colonel shared amazing tales to include his launch on D-day, and noted he was responsible for shooting down 13 German aircraft. Also a pilot in the Korean War, Colonel East was awarded the honor of being the most decorated Soldier in the Guinness Book of World Records for 1955- 56.
Colonel East was awarded with two copies of proclamations by President Reagan; the first commemorating the 40th Anniversary of D-Day, created June 6, 1984, and the second remembering those who served in the Korean War, made June 26, 1988.
Colonel Hargrove was asked to participate at the library's Veteran's Day event by former 146th Airlift Wing Commander, retired Brig. Gen. Dan Pemberton, who also volunteers at the library. Colonel Hargrove said he was honored to have been a part of the ceremony and for the opportunity to meet a man such as Colonel East.
"He is still so lucid and is able to recall the events of his life so clearly," said Colonel Hargrove. "It was an honor to recognize him on this special day."
After being honored, East said, "I've never been prouder than anything in my life then I am at this moment."
You can meet Colonel East as he serves as a volunteer docent for the Reagan Library and often speaks to visitors outside his own display there.
The ceremony included additional speakers and veterans, and was followed by the landing of a Huey helicopter on the Reagan Library's lawn where visitors could get up close.
The Reagan National Library has a holiday display of gorgeous Christmas trees, each decorated with the theme of every country President Reagan visited during his presidency.
For more information, visit http://www.reaganlibrary.com.