Missouri Veterans Commission Executive Director Larry D. Kay spoke to area residents Monday, asking them to reflect on how veterans have changed the world.

“Today our nation glorifies World War II — the great crusade and idolize the men of the Greatest Generation and immortalize the dwindling legions of heroes in our midst,” Kay said at the American Legion Post 297 Monday.

“But in our idolatry, we have lost touch with the immense pain and suffering caused by the war and the ripples of sorrow that flowed throughout the land for decades,” he added. “Since their time, they have been joined by comrades of Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, the Persian Gulf and Iraq and Afghanistan. Those families and friends who have experienced the pain know it clearly.”

Kay asked those at the ceremony if the service of an 87-year-old veteran is any less of one who received the Medal of Honor, or if a spouse “charged with the care and conduct of their family: should be given the same respect as the spouse whose exploits were celebrated and lauded when they returned.”

Kay said to imagine a military cemetery.

“Take a look, really take a look. Look at the rows of white stones in this cemetery,” he said. There is one great equalizer.

“Here among the stones there is no African-American section,” he added. “There is no special place for generals or separate sections for Marines. Rank, color, creed, religion — they have no place here. To be a member of this club you had to raise your right hand and swear to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. That simple act began the journey of sacrifice that led service members and their families to this place.”

Kay joined the Missouri Veterans Commission as deputy director in September of 2006 and was promoted to executive director in August 2008.

He was born in California, Mo., and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Westminster College, a master’s degree in health services management from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and a master’s of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College.

In his civilian career, he has over 20 years of experience in hospital administration and health care management focusing on strategic planning, operational leadership, team building and communications. He has specific backgrounds in acute care, skilled nursing care and clinic leadership and operations.

As the executive director of the Missouri Veterans Commission, he is responsible for providing strategic leadership for the commission. This includes six Missouri state veterans cemeteries, seven Missouri state veterans homes with 1,350 beds and the Veterans Services Program responsible for bringing in over $1 billion to Missouri’s economy annually.

In his military career of over 31 years, Kay is a combat veteran of Desert Storm serving as the executive officer for the 1267th Medical Company (air ambulance) 1990-1991.

The mission of his air ambulance company was aerial evacuation of wounded, transportation of critical medical supplies and aerial search and rescue in the combat zone. He is qualified in both the Huey and Blackhawk helicopters and has served in command positions from platoon through brigade and task force levels.

Deployed in January 2008, Kay most recently served as commander, Multinational Task Force - East in Kosovo. As the senior U. S. Army commander in the Balkans, he was responsible for the deployment and performance of a brigade-size combat team to include active duty, National Guard and Reserve airmen, Marines and soldiers from seven states and six partner nations in support of NATO Peacekeeping operations. Kay retired from the Missouri National Guard in September of 2010 at the rank of brigadier general.

He and his wife, Karen, reside in Boonville and have three children, James, Anna, and Grady.