Armed Forces Day spans Civil War to Golden Knights
May 20, 2011
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. (Army News Service, May 23, 2011) -- Servicemen and their families celebrating Armed Forces Day this weekend had the chance to witness modern war technology in action, and were also able to experience the tradition of the armed forces from the 1700s until the present.
For those who wanted to experience the Army of the Potomac, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War were at the Joint Services Open House at Andrews Air Force Base throughout the weekend.
Members of the group preserve the memory of the Grand Army of the Republic by wearing Civil War uniforms and carrying rifles and other accouterments of the day to tell the story of the nation at war with itself.
Many of the members are the direct descendants of Soldiers who fought to preserve the Union from 1861 through 1865. One was a re-enactor in the 1993 movie "Gettysburg," starring Tom Berenger, Martin Sheen, Sam Elliott and Stephen Lang.
However, that's not his only claim to fame.
"Oh man, that was fun. We got to sit and talk with the actors and have lunch with them," said Eddie Roberts, commander of George G. Meade Camp #3, who in his off-hours is assistant basketball coach at College of Southern Maryland.
"I was even on the video cover and the poster they put up in theaters," he said.
Roberts' maternal great grandfather was Jacob Presley with the Fifth East Tennessee. A Union Soldier, he was killed at Resaca, Ga.
And it's another Presley the reader may be thinking of.
"Elvis Presley (was) my mom's 2nd cousin," said Roberts, smiling.
Another cousin was Brig. Gen. William T. Roberts who fought on the other side with the Second North Carolina Cavalry.
"My great grandfather, John Locke, fought with the 100th Pennsylvania Regiment," said James Locke, junior vice commander of Antietam Camp #3. "He was wounded and mustered out in August 1863."
Duane Whitlock, camp commander of James Harris Camp #38, is a descendant of Harrison Whitlock of Company G, First Michigan Engineering and Mechanics.
"Harrison was with General William Tecumseh Sherman when his enlistment expired in 1864 in Atlanta, Ga.," said Whitlock. "So, he thought he'd head back home but this was just prior to Sherman's famous March to the Sea, so he had to re-up. He was re-issued all his uniforms and accouterments. And today, I still have his belt buckle, discharge papers and pay record."
Five Whitlocks all enlisted at about the same time and were all in the same company. Marcus, the oldest brother, was captured at the Battle of Shiloh in southwestern Tennessee and was sent to Andersonville, Ga. where he died and was buried.
The camps represented at the air show are all members of the Department of the Chesapeake, which includes a total of 410 members. Across the nation, there's a total of 26 departments, each consisting of over 200 community-based Camps. More than 6,360 men belong nationally.
"We were chartered by congress in 1954 and became the legal heir of the Grand Army of the Republic," said Jeffrey French, Department of the Chesapeake senior vice commander, adding that the Union Veterans of the Civil War were organized into the GAR in 1866 and became a social and political force that would control the destiny of the nation for more than six decades.
This year, and continuing for five years, they're celebrating the 150th year of the Civil War which began with the firing of cannon at Fort Sumter, S.C. Also, in July, they'll celebrate the first battle of Bull Run in Manassas, Va. and the anniversary of Lincoln's Address in Gettysburg, Pa.
The Joint Service Open House at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, the largest open house event in the Department of Defense, invited DoD cardholders and school-sponsored children for Friday's show, while the weekend of May 21-22, 2011, was open to the general public.
Thousands of servicemen and their families came out to celebrate 100 years of naval aviation, meet Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, Marines, Sailors and Soldiers, and climb all over the jets and other planes and military equipment.
Ribs, chicken, hamburgers and hotdogs were available for those who needed a quick fill-up before watching the flyovers of bi-planes and jets and the downward spiral of the Golden Knights, the Army's parachute demonstration team who are currently celebrating 52 years as ambassadors for the Army.
With ribs in hand and still finger-lickin' good, families could move away from the Civil War and bump into one of the prettiest horses this side of France.
Klinger, a 12-year-old Percheron and Morgan mix, was on duty with members of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), including his rider, Spc. Chris Ewing.
"I've been with the Old Guard for almost three years and riding for more than a year, but not just on Klinger. We have over 50 horses in the stables and we get to ride all of them," said Ewing, who added that Klinger can be clumsy at times, tripping over his own hooves.
Sgt. Drew Hilliard mentioned an old saying, "A good horse is hard to find, but Soldiers are easy to find."
The regiment is the oldest active unit of infantry in the Army, having been first organized as the First American Regiment in 1784.
Joint Base Andrews, the home of Air Force One, provides support and defense for the National Capital Region, as well as security for the president of the United States, national leadership, and visiting heads of state.