KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
Native of Greenwood, Mississippi, 2nd Lt. Samuel Reeves Keesler, Jr., enlisted in the Army Air Service entering World War I.
He trained as an aerial observer, gunner and artillery fire controller and provided air support for the U.S. troops. After taking heavy gunfire from enemy aircraft during a reconnaissance mission, Lt. Keesler gallantly fended off German attackers while plummeting to the ground.
Seriously wounded from the crash landing, Lt. Keesler and his pilot, 1st Lt. Harold W. Riley, were captured by German troops. Keesler died from his injuries due to no immediate medical attention.
In preparation of World War II, the city of Biloxi formally offered the land for an Air Force base in 1941. City officials wanted the instillation to be named after a notable figure in the local area’s history, so Keesler Army Airfield was eventually built and named after the fallen soldier.
Spanning all the way back to the honorable veteran, the Gulf Coast has been home to a strong military heritage.
The coast has been able to provide the military with open land with a suitable environment and air space. Bases such as Keesler, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport, Mississippi, and other instillations on the coast have set a foundation of military impact and training.
The military tie of the coast has become a mutually beneficial relationship, improving the communities’ economies by creating jobs opportunities and partnering with off-base facilities.
Across the coast, the military has been able to grow stronger and take the best position possible to complete the mission while building successful communities around them. The relationship has remained impactful, and the support for the military has helped this country protect our freedom and support those who serve.
Lt. Keesler is one of many brave service members who have died protecting our country. Memorial Day is a time that we remember fallen service members. With multiple military bases across the Gulf Coast, the military culture remains strong and honors those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.