Ellsworth Air Force Base pays tribute to veterans at their annual Thanksgiving party

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - The Ellsworth Air Force Base pays tribute to veterans with framed photos at their annual Thanksgiving potluck this year. Every year, men and women in the air force come together to appreciate each others service. It's also a treat to see each other's families.

"It's important for families to be represented because ultimately we fight for freedom and liberty and justice but, we also do it for our families, for our kids. Fighting for those that we love the most," says U.S. Air Force Squadron Major Josè Crespo.

This year, a display called the "Portraits of Service" was included in the festivities. Several pictures of veterans with mini biographies were laid out for everyone to read.

"Not all the current active duty members in this quadrant know that a lot of the civilians are active duty or require active duty. So this way it kind of lets them know hey look these are the people you're working with. They served as well," says Unit Program Coordinator Erin Fletcher.

For Major Crespo, who has served in the air force for almost 14 years, says he appreciates the 50 civilians that are part of his squadron, of over 300 people. Whether these civilians are retirees or veterans, he admires their willingness to help out in any way.

"You never know who has served, whose raised their hand. And never forget that their sacrifice that we've enjoyed comes on the soldiers of those who serve today but also those who have served in the past," says Major Crespo.

For one air force member, this event is a moment to see appreciation for veterans come full circle.

"Well I always thought as a little kid, I would be walking through the mall and see a guy with his veteran hat on or something and I always go up and shake his hand and tell them thank you for your service. Then try to find out their story. So now that I'm actually in the military I realize what that sacrifice is," says U.S. Air Force Fleet Technician Billy Stephens.