FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Thousands of visitors to Fort Jackson's 59th Armed Forces Day celebration were treated to historic and current displays, re-enactments, a parade and other fun activities, featuring all branches of service and a special appearance by the Tuskegee Airmen.

Members of the Celebrate Freedom Foundation displayed historic military vehicles and other artifacts. In addition, re-enactors wearing period uniforms re-enacted military battles ranging from the Revolutionary War to the Vietnam War. "It's important to me to see what the Army is all about," said Stephen Riggs, Celebrate Freedom Foundation volunteer. "We want to show the evolution of the Army over 234 years."

However, learning about military history was not the only thing to do. Children could enjoy rides in a carnival area and participate in a mini Basic Combat Training, doing pushups and sprints under the guidance of drill sergeants.

Several Fort Jackson organizations offered information about their services and static displays invited visitors to take a closer look at military vehicles. The highlight of the day was the opening ceremony, which featured Soldiers from the 187th Ordnance Battalion, who emerged onto the field from behind a cloud of smoke.

"Many things have changed in American lives in the past 59 years, but the reasons to celebrate Armed Forces Day remain the same," said Brig. Gen. Bradley May, Fort Jackson commanding general, in his opening remarks. "This is an occasion to say thank you for who you are and what you do."

Shelia Lemon had a very personal reason to pay her respects to the members of the armed forces. Her husband, Staff Sgt. Jerome Lemon, was killed in Iraq in 2004. Wearing her late husband's Purple Heart, she came to honor him and all other service members and their families.

"It's a great tribute," Lemon said. "It means a lot to our Soldiers -- how they dedicated their lives to our country. They sacrificed a lot -- their family and friends as well." Susanne.Kappler1@us.army.mil

Page last updated Thu May 21st, 2009 at 13:54