HENRIETTA, Texas – What began as a gesture of appreciation and thanks in the wake of 9/11, the annual Clay County Dove Salute has turned into a much-anticipate event for many at Sheppard AFB.
It was fitting that this year’s event fell on the 20th anniversary of the day the worst of humanity reached the shores of the United States. This event, hosted by Emry Birdwell and Deborah Clark at the Birdwell-Clark Ranch east of Henrietta, Texas, was the 16th annual hunt and steak burn.
Every annual dove salute is special and heartwarming, but his year’s Dove Salute was especially memorable for both the Birdwell-Clark Ranch and the Sheppard community.
“There’s a couple of reasons why this year’s salute is special,” Clark said. “It’s coming out of that COVID experience, to be able to have that camaraderie again, and number two, for it to fall on 9/11 and for that to actually be the inspiration behind wanting to do this for our military.”
Clark remarked that this was just a small way that she and her family could say thank you to the armed forces and that the Dove Salute was one of the highlights of the year for them.
“We have lots of opportunities to share what we’ve been given out here and that’s important to us,” she said.
Over 140 members of Team Sheppard showed up to enjoy the Texas hospitality of the Birdwell-Clark family.
Brig. Gen. Lyle K. Drew, 82nd Training Wing commander, said he and others from Sheppard are thankful for the gratitude local communities show the men and women of Sheppard. He said it’s important for those in uniform to participate in such events to return the appreciation shown to them.
“The community is committed to the success of Sheppard Air Force Base,” Drew said, “and any opportunity when they open their doors, we need to come in fully and happily and engage with them.”
The event consisted of a clay shooting competition hosted by the Big Covey Quail Coalition, a dove hunt and a steak dinner, in which participants were able to grill their own steaks. Winner of the clay shooting competition were awarded a Top Gun trophy and bragging rights until the next year’s event.
At the end of the night, Brig. Gen. Drew presented the Birdwell-Clark family with a plaque of appreciation for their continued hospitality.