Setting Tone
In this photo from the 2008 Armed Forces Celebration, Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Chorus finish a performance on a high note of patriotism that continues to reverberate through the Huntsville community as preparations are completed for the 2009 Armed Forces Celebration. The annual celebration June 13-21 includes a patriotic outdoor concert, a high-energy Soldier Show and military discounts at local attractions.

Huntsville's love and support of the military - and particularly Redstone Arsenal -- will once again take center stage during the annual Armed Forces Celebration, June 13-21.

The weeklong event will offer something for everyone, including a patriotic outdoor concert complete with military displays, a dinner event with one of the Army's top generals, a high-energy Soldier Show and military discounts at local attractions.

"This community is appreciative of its military all year round, day in and day out," said Larry Capps, chairman of the Armed Forces Week Planning Committee of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce. "But each year we set aside a specific week to especially thank the Soldiers and all the members of the armed forces and their families for their commitment, dedication and sacrifice.

"Our Armed Forces Celebration has been recognized as one of the best, if not the best, in the nation by the Association of the U.S. Army. All of our events give our community a chance to honor the armed forces and to also enjoy what the armed forces has given to our community. This event recognizes the patriotism in all of us."

Capps, a retired brigadier general, has served as the Armed Forces Celebration chairman for about seven years. He said each year the community's leaders join forces with local military representatives to put on a one-of-a-kind celebration.

"This week of activities is so well organized," he said. "Our committee of volunteers are always enthusiastic about giving their time and experience to this celebration. They are either retired military or people who are interested in supporting the military. And we get a lot of support from the city to make this all happen."

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said the city is always eager to support the Armed Forces Celebration and any event that pertains to solidifying the relationship between the military services and Huntsville.

"Events like Armed Forces Week are important to communities like ours because it gives us a chance to formally honor and respect our community's connection to the armed forces," he said. "The armed forces are such an important part of our history that we would be doing a great injustice if we did not recognize the brave men and women who have worked so hard to make our community what it is."

The Armed Forces Celebration represents the capstone of the relationship that Huntsville and the surrounding communities share with Redstone Arsenal and the armed forces, said Garrison commander Col. Bob Pastorelli.

"This celebration continues to build on a tremendous bond between our citizenry and our military that is second to none. It represents the great relationship we have with our community and how we all come together to honor all members who serve in the armed forces: Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard," he said.

"Without a doubt, the good people of the Tennessee Valley go out of their way to show their support. The event is like the capstone -- the culmination of all our work together -- in one week. We believe it's a great way to get together and celebrate servicemembers everywhere in the world and to show our young Soldiers that folks support the service they give to the country."

The Armed Forces Celebration has its roots in Redstone Arsenal and the large Army presence in the Huntsville/Tennessee Valley community.

"Huntsville and our entire community's successes should serve as a daily reminder about what an important role the U.S. armed forces have played in our history," Battle said. "Our citizens have a strong background with the armed forces and this week really helps us to recognize and honor that connection ... The City of Huntsville and our entire region have been proud to share in Redstone Arsenal's successes and we're looking forward to that relationship continuing for many, many years."

Though Redstone Arsenal is central to the celebration, the week's activities recognize all servicemembers, regardless of branch.

"Redstone Arsenal and its many tenet activities have a very direct impact on the economy of Huntsville/Madison County and the surrounding communities," Capps said. "But the contributions of the armed forces go way beyond local economic impact. It is important for the citizens of this region to reflect on the many sacrifices the armed forces - and their families -- make in the service of this great country."

The theme for this year's celebration is "The Year of the NCO," a theme chosen in support of the Army's yearlong recognition of the commitment and dedication of non-commissioned officers.

"The NCO is the backbone of the Army," Capps said. "They are the closest to the Soldier. They take care of Soldiers and their personal needs. They are their mommas and their poppas. They are the first-line leaders in making sure our troops are cared for and ready to serve."

Of the week's events, Capps singled out three that are very significant to the community - the naming of the NCO and Soldier of the Year at a special June 15 luncheon at the Officers and Civilians Club, the Concert in the Park at Joe Davis Stadium on June 15 that will draw about 5,000 participants and the June 17 Salute Dinner.

"The naming of the NCO and Soldier of the Year is an annual event that is always important. But this year, it takes on special significance because it fits in with our theme," Capps said.

"The Concert in the Park is really big because it gets the involvement of so many people from the surrounding communities. Last year, we moved it to Joe Davis Stadium to accommodate the crowd and to provide better parking for both the public and for the tremendous display of military hardware that the Army brings in. It's an all-around great venue for this large event."

Among the hardware on display will be Chinook, Huey and Kiowa Warrior helicopters as well as the Avenger, TOW, HIMARS and SLAMRAAM missile systems.

This year, Huntsville's mayor will be taking a very active role in the Concert in the Park.

"I'm going to be firing up the grill and cooking some barbecue at the Concert in the Park on Monday," Battle said. "That is one thing I'm, personally, really looking forward to. I really enjoy every opportunity I have that reminds me about the simple things in life. I'm excited about cooking some good food and enjoying some great company and honoring our military community."

The Salute Dinner, which will be a formal affair at the Von Braun Center, will feature special guest Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff and a decorated Iraqi War veteran.

Chiarelli previously served as commander of the Multi-National Corps-Iraq under Gen. George Casey. He took over his current position as the 32nd vice chief of staff in August 2008.

Since receiving his commission in 1972, Chiarelli has commanded at every level from platoon to corps during assignments throughout the U.S. and in Germany and Belgium. He led the 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas, in the Iraq War and during Operation Iraqi Freedom II before serving as commander of the Multi-National Corps-Iraq. He has been awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Army Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit and Bronze Star.

Other highlights of the week for the general public include three performances of the high-energy Soldier Show and two local sporting events that will open and close the weeklong military appreciation celebration. The Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army is sponsoring both sporting events - a Huntsville Stars game June 13 and a Vipers indoor arena football game June 20.

"I hope everyone enjoys themselves and has fun with the week's activities," Pastorelli said. "It will be a busy week that offers a great way to take time to come together with the community to honor fellow servicemembers. There are so many phenomenal events planned it is hard to choose my favorites. However, a few key activities will include our Proclamation Signing Ceremony, the Soldier Show, Armed Forces Salute Dinner and the Open House at the Arsenal's Army Community Service building."

Here is rundown of the week's festivities:
Aca,!Ac Saturday, June 13 -
AUSA Military Appreciation Night at the Huntsville Stars, 7 p.m., Joe Davis Stadium, Stars vs. Jacksonville Suns. Limited free tickets available to active military, Reserve and National Guard Soldiers and DoD civilians. Call 457-4239. Tickets at http://www.huntsvillestars.com/ or 882-2562.
Aca,!Ac Monday, June 15 -
Proclamation Signing Ceremony, 9:30 a.m., 2nd Recruiting Brigade, Redstone Arsenal.
NCO/Soldier of the Year Award Luncheon, 11 a.m., Officers and Civilians Club.
Concert in the Park, 6:30 p.m., Joe Davis Stadium. Warmup band: Juice; featured band: 129th Army Band, Tennessee National Guard. Program also includes static displays of military aviation and missile hardware and fireworks.
Aca,!Ac Tuesday, June 16 --
Army Soldier Show, "Lights, Camera, Action," 7 p.m., Von Braun Center Concert Hall. Free tickets available at FMWR sites on Redstone Arsenal and at the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce.
Aca,!Ac Wednesday, June 17 -
Army Soldier Show, "Lights, Camera, Action," 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., VBC Concert Hall. Free tickets available at the Recreation Center and FMWR sites on Redstone Arsenal and at the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce.

Armed Forces Salute Dinner - 5 p.m., VIP reception, VBC North Hall; 5:30 p.m. general reception, VBC West Hall; 7 p.m. dinner, VBC North Hall. Tickets: $125 per individual, corporate sponsorships available. Guest speaker: Gen. Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army. Contact: Angie Wooten, angela.j.wooten@boeing.com.
Aca,!Ac Thursday, June 18 -
Army Community Service Open House, 11 a.m., building 3888, Redstone Arsenal.
Aca,!Ac Friday, June 19 -
Armed Forces Celebration Golf Tournament, 7:30 a.m., Links at Redstone. Contact: Mike Kelley, michael_kelley@raytheon.com.
Aca,!Ac Saturday, June 20 -
AUSA Military Appreciation Night with the Tennessee Valley Vipers, 7:30 p.m., VBC Arena, Tennessee Valley Vipers vs. Florida Firecats. Limited free tickets available to active military, Reserve and National Guard Soldiers and DoD civilians, 457-4239. Tickets: http://www.vipersaf2.com or 428-HISS.

In addition, several local tourist attractions will be offering special military discounts during the week of June 13-21. Here is a listing of those discounts:
Aca,!Ac U.S. Space & Rocket Center - All military and their immediate family can receive free admission. IMAX movie is an additional cost of $8 adults, $7 children.
Aca,!Ac Huntsville Botanical Garden - Free admission to military ID card holders.
Aca,!Ac Burritt on the Mountain - Free admission for military ID holders. There also will be a special Redstone exhibit in the Burritt Mansion.
Aca,!Ac EarlyWorks Museum Complex - Free admission to military ID card holders.
Aca,!Ac Huntsville Museum of Art - All active military and their families will be admitted free of charge with proper military ID.
Aca,!Ac Sci-Quest, the North Alabama Science Center Inc. - One half off regular admission for military ID card holders.
Aca,!Ac Veterans Memorial Museum - Free to active military ID card holders. Discounts will be given to retired military and family members.

Page last updated Thu June 11th, 2009 at 11:04