HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT)-A toast to the troops topped the list of festivities Wednesday at one of Huntsville's biggest yearly events.
Lockheed Martin's "Salute To The Warfighter" ceremony drew a sizable crowd on day three of the Space & Missile Defense Conference at the Von Braun Center.
The brief tribute paid homage to all former and active military members, and included a living Medal of Honor recipient.
Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and Madison resident Leo Thorsness participated in the ceremony, which was capped by a champagne toast to the troops. Thorsness' fighter jet was shot down over North Vietnam during a surveillance mission in 1967. He survived and was held captive in a Hanoi prison for six years before being released and receiving the nation's highest military honor.
Thorsness called Lockheed Martin a true ally of the military, and said Wednesday's tribute was a strong reminder of why strong military funding is critical for both soldiers and civilians.
"If they cut us to the bone, we won't be that strong of a nation, and we'll be challenged more and more," said Thorsness. "There are young men and women out there getting shot at, defending the freedom we have, and having not had freedom for six years, it's very sweet."
"Salute To The Warfighter" has been sponsored by Lockheed Martin for the last ten years.