The event began with a jump from an airplane by members of the Fastrax Parachute Team, who carried a large American flag, then moved inside to the Capitol Rotunda.
The 25 inductees come from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps and served the nation in every conflict since World War II, including Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War and the Middle East. They represent 13 Kentucky counties, and three have already passed away.
Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner and retired Ky. National Guard Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Adams said the Hall of Fame recognizes veterans who continue to serve their community, even after taking off the uniform.
“These outstanding contributions may be in the areas of professional, civic and veteran advocacy or political achievement may be over the life of the nominee,” he said.
Adams specifically pointed out two members of the class — Murl Garlin Conner, who died in 1998 and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2018, and Dudley Riley, a World War II veteran who was a POW.
He said the men and women to be inducted “represent a true cross-section of America’s and Kentucky’s diverse veteran population, and the very best Kentucky has to offer.”
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who hosted the event, saluted the honorees. “While many in Kentucky may be going astray, it’s our veterans who are leading us in the right direction, in terms of engagement and participation and community involvement.”
Grimes said she was grateful for the veterans who welcomed her into their family. “I got to be your advocate over the past eight years, here in Frankfort. It’s been one of the highest privileges I have ever had in my life.”
Gov. Matt Bevin also dropped by the ceremony, saying, “This is a tremendous opportunity to celebrate the freedom, liberty, the incredible ability to assembly freely — all the things we’re blessed with as Americans, here in the 21st century.”
Bevin, a veteran himself, said, “This is a small, tiny token of a way that we can honor those that are being inducted, those who have been inducted previously, to say thank you.”
The actual induction ceremony will take place Sept. 6-7 at the Marriott Griffin Gate Hotel and Resort in Lexington. This will be the sixth class of the Hall of Fame, with 120 previous honorees.