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MP unit offers salute to Gold Star Families

Members of the 3175th MP Company Detachment offered salutes to the Gold Star Families aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat, as it launched at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, June 2, 2024. The Hannibal cruise, for families who have lost a loved one during active military duty, is part of a nation-wide simultaneous program. Photo courtesy of the 3175th MP Company, Sgt. Joel Combs.


A spectacular expression of patriotism took place on Sunday afternoon, June 2, 2024, as the 3175th MP Company Detachment gathered on Hannibal’s riverfront to salute Gold Star Families as they departed aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat for a three-hour dinner cruise.

The event was part of a nationwide program to recognize the supreme sacrifices that these families have given for their country.

Steve Terry, Mark Twain Riverboat captain, said that his boat was one of 13 across the U.S. “departing at 1230 hours to honor the families of Soldiers who died during active duty military service.”

This is the fourth year that the Terry family has participated in this program.

Capt. Terry first became aware of the program while attending a meeting of the  Passenger Vessel Association, a nationwide group consisting boat owners and operators. “I went to one of their break-out meetings and listened to the presentation. I got pretty pumped. Jenna (1986-2016, daughter of Steve and Sandy Terry, and wife of Sgt. 1st Class Joel Combs) would have gotten all over this; she would have wanted to do it.”

Two years after learning about the program, the Terrys were able to get involved.

On Sunday, there were 103 Gold Star Family members taking part in this celebratory cruise. The people were from Illinois and Missouri, basically from an 80- to 100-mile radius of Hannibal.

“We provide the boat, the lunch and the entertainment,” Capt. Terry said. “David Damm from Quincy, Ill., volunteers every year to provide entertainment. They look forward to him being here.

“We had turkey and cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes. It was great. For a luncheon menu, that’s one the best meals we provide, and it is one that everyone likes.

“Families may have kids or grandkids. To see them interact with each other is amazing. They are all in the same situation,” Capt. Terry said. The families start arriving in Hannibal on Saturday, and there are several events planned by the VFW in Hannibal. Some stay in a hotel, and come on board the boat on Sunday. “They are so happy to be together and be out on the river and enjoy a nice afternoon.”

A highlight of this particular afternoon, and a surprise to many of the passengers, was a formation of the 3175 MP Co Detachment, the members of which offered salutes to the families as the Mark Twain Riverboat left the shoreline.

In charge of organizing this tribute was Sgt. 1st Class Joel Combs of the 3175th Military Police Company detachment. “We are military police officers. We go overseas and take the place of active duty” personnel who are in training. The unit has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other locations. “On the state side, we can be deployed for flood duty or for civil unrest.” Three times the unit was deployed to Ferguson when riots erupted in 2014.

“Capt. Steve reached out to me,” Sgt. Combs said. Coincidentally, “we were doing our national guard training that weekend.”

Capt. Terry said, “The stars just lined up right. They came down in the unit’s bus and participated and it was really cool.

“It brought tears of joy for several to see the MPs standing at attention” on the riverfront. “The people on board the boat were so impressed. The MPs were all in fatigues,” Capt. Terry said, which has a special significance. “When the families last saw their soldier leave, the soldier was in fatigues, not a dress uniform.”

Even Brig. Gen. Matthew M. Bacon, assistant adjutant general, Army, who was aboard the boat, was in fatigues, Capt. Terry said.

Hosting the Gold Star Families has special meaning to the Terrys.

“I have to give back somewhere,” Capt. Terry said. “Sandy’s dad (Arthur Bush) was a disabled veteran from World War II; he was severely injured in combat.”

Sgt. Joel Combs, right, shakes hands with Capt. Steve Terry of the Mark Twain Riverboat. Capt. Terry and his family hosted Gold Star Families aboard their riverboat on Sunday, June 2, 2024. Photo courtesy of the 3175th MP Company, Sgt. Joel Combs.

The 3175th MP Company Detachment lines up along the Hannibal riverfront, awaiting launch of the Mark Twain Riverboat at 12;30 p.m. Sunday, June 2. Aboard the boat were Gold Star Families, those who have lost a loved one to active duty military service. This is the fourth year the Mark Twain Riverboat has participated in this nation-wide event. Photo courtesy of the 3175th MP Company, Sgt. Joel Combs.


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