By Martha B. Jacob –
Western Brown High School was the site for a special ceremony honoring a former Mt. Orab resident for his achievements. Chief Master Sergeant USAF, Rodney J. McKinley served from 2006 to 2009 and was the honored guest at the May 1 event held at Western Brown High School. McKinley graduated from WB in 1974.
The event was organized by a long list of participants including the Wilson Sroufe V.F.W. Post 9772, the Village of Mt. Orab and Western Brown Local Schools.
The ceremony was held in the presence of more than 75 people, most of whom were American Veterans, members of the Mt. Orab community and special guests.
Master of Ceremonies for the event was Rick Rhoades, adjutant for the VFW. He opened the ceremony by talking a little about McKinley.
“We are here to recognize Master Sergeant Rodney McKinley who grew up in northern Mt. Orab, better known as Bucktown,” Rhoades said, “He was one of those Bucktown kids, as was Representative Doug Green and myself, we’re all Bucktown kids.
“Rodney is one of the highest ranking enlisted men in the United States Air Force. That’s a huge honor.”
The crowd then stood for the posting of colors by the Western Brown JROTC, followed by a briefing on the US Air Force ranking system’s history given by Claude Lawrence, soon-to-be commander of the VFW Post.
He told the room full of people that McKinley is only one of 18 to reach the non commissioned officer ranking of Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force and Brown County and especially Mt. Orab are proud of him.
Reagan White, Superintendent of Western Brown Local School District took the microphone and first thanked everyone in the room who had a hand in making the ceremony honoring McKinley. He described McKinley as a shining example of what an individual can do with determination and when one gives their God-given talents to use.
Western Brown senior and JROTC member cadet Mason Showalter was then introduced and spoke briefly about students who are striving to do better in everything they encounter. He said that achievers like McKinley has set the bar high and it is an honor to try and reach that bar.
Mt. Orab Mayor, Bruce Lunsford talked to the group about how the village has honored the McKinley family.
“I’d like to read the minutes from a Mt. Orab council meeting from May 3, 2016,” Lunsford said. “ It reads……after discussion, council voted to rename Woodward Street, that Jim “Hoot” McKinley lived on most of his life, and the street that Rodney McKinley was raised on to McKinley Street and make the permanent change effective January 1, 2019. Jim ‘Hoot” McKinley, was a 30 year auxiliary police officer, as well as a member of the Mt. Orab Fire Department for 56 years and his son Robby McKinley, only the 15th Chief Master Sargeant of the Air Force. The street will carry both names….”
“So right now, the street sign reads Woodward-McKinley, but will officially become McKinley Street in January,” Lunsford said.
State Representative Doug Green presented Chief Master Sergeant Rodney McKinley with a certificate of appreciation, congratulating him for his accomplishments.
Finally, Rodney McKinley stood up and spoke to everyone who had come out to the ceremony.
McKinley first thanked everyone who was in attendance and stated that his long drive in from Oklahoma City was well worth the trip.
“I officially retired from the Air Force in July of 2009,” McKinley said, “but being in the position that I was in I never really got to retire. I’m still very active and I travel a lot going to a lot of Air Force bases, giving a lot speeches trying to motivate and inspire our airmen to be the best that they possibly can.”
McKinley talked about being on a special committee with the Secretary of Defense which deals with sexual assault within the military. He said he appreciates the opportunity to be on the committee.
“So, I’m not retired,” he said with a smile, “I’m still out there trying to be a better man, a better airman.”
He said his love for country began in sixth grade when his class went to Wright Patterson Air Force Base on a field trip. He said seeing the museum was something special and he became engulfed in Air Force history.
He talked briefly about entering the Air Force in 1982 and gave every assignment he ever received 100% of his attention and worked hard at being the best he could be. He served in aircraft maintenance and in the medical field.
He served overseas in the Philippines, Italy and Germany and deployed to Southwest Asia in support of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
McKinley ended his speech saying that he believes his greatest achievement in his life has been having the opportunity to help other people.
Following Chief Master Sergeant McKinley’s comments he was presented several gifts for his service from Ron “Butch” Davis, commander of the VFW Post.
Those who attended the event commented that it was their honor to meet and celebrate Sergeant McKinley’s accomplishments and they were proud to meet him.
A reception in his honor was held following the ceremony.