CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For Brian Wilson, a commander in the U.S. Navy, the chance to celebrate West Virginia's Sesquicentennial was the chance to show his children the state that he loved while growing up.
Wilson, a Charleston native, left the state when he joined the military in 1993. He and his wife, Caroline, lived in Texas, Florida, California and Japan before eventually moving to Nebraska. Their twin son and daughter were born in Japan and raised in Nebraska, but Wilson said that doesn't matter.
"They think they're Cornhuskers. I tell them, 'Kids, everyone who loves you in this world lives in West Virginia. You're Mountaineers,'" Wilson said. "I figured since they met the governor and his wife today, it's cemented now that they're Mountaineers."
West Virginians young and old gathered on the state Capitol lawn Thursday to ring in the state's last 150 years and look forward to many more.
Loeda Maloy brought a lawn chair to the Capitol to hear the bell ringing, listen to the West Virginia Army National Guard, and hear Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin speak.
It was her second major West Virginia birthday celebration.
Fifty years ago, Maloy was sitting in her home in Kanawha City when President John F. Kennedy famously said at West Virginia's Centennial, "The sun does not always shine in West Virginia, but the people always do."
"I watched it on TV because I didn't want to come out. It was really raining," Maloy said.
Maloy is old enough to have a direct link to the state's founding 150 years ago.
"The Civil War is very real to me. As a child in Tucker County I sat on the lap of a Civil War veteran and he had a beard that came this long. It was real long and I'd play with his beard and fall asleep in his arms," Maloy said.
In 1835, Maloy's family emigrated from the Alsace-Lorraine region that alternated several times between German and French ownership.
"Sometimes they'd call themselves Frenchmen and sometimes German," Maloy said.
They eventually settled in Philippi, then part of Virginia, but now in Barbour County, which became the site of the first land battle of the Civil War.
"My great-grandfather Auvil (Maloy's maiden name) was a minister," Maloy said. "The Southern Army came and got him and tied him to a tree and lit a fire under him and he just started praying. He said he had friends in both places. But the Union Army did the same thing to him later."
Jim Sisler, a high school history teacher, came as a chaperone for the West Virginia Ambassadors Camp, a group of the best history and art students in the state.