Heroes Homecoming is a celebration of America’s veterans. All of them. It’s how the community honors their sacrifices and bravery and how we say thank you for the freedom earned through their deeds and commitment. In a city that has sent hundreds of thousands of Americans to distant shores to serve and welcomed them home again, anything less would be a disservice to the dedicated men and women who answered their country’s call and carried out the will of the American people around the world. Heroes Homecoming features several events from Oct. 29 - Nov. 11 throughout the community.
This year is the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. While Heroes Homecoming honors all veterans, this year it gives a special nod to the greatest generation. During World War II, more than 16 million Americans answered their country’s call. Now, there are fewer than 800,000 of these veterans among us. Almost 500 World War II veterans die every day.
“Heroes homecoming has been going on since 2010 when the community first honored the Vietnam veterans. After that, there was a lot of feedback about the need to honor the World War II vets because that generation is getting older. It is time. It is time to honor what these men and women did, and say thank you, because it is that generation that gave us so much. We wanted to do it before it was just too late,” said Angie Brady, Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau director of tourism.
“These events all come out of a result of us wanting to preserve the legacy of this generation. One way to do that is through the live forever campaign. It is an offshoot of Heroes Homecoming,” said Brady. The campaign invited several World War II veteran to tell their stories. The campaign is partnering with Cumberland County Schools to help school age children understand what these vets did. “It is pretty moving. If you share your connection to World War II on social media and tag it with #operationlivesforever, it will populate on the website and by doing their stories, their legacies will continue to live on. You can find out more at www.Operationlivesforever.com.”
The Heroes Homecoming celebration kicked off on Oct. 29 at Eastover Heritage and Heroes. The Eastover Civic Club honored veterans with exhibits, food, vendors and music. The event combined a celebration of the town’s agricultural heritage along with its patriotism.
While America’s youth went to war in the 1940s, it meant changes at home, too. Everyone stepped up to fill in the gap. Americans tighten their belts and conserved resources wherever they could so that loved ones overseas would have what they needed. Things like gasoline and sugar were rationed. People who didn’t already do so started growing their own food. They held drives to raise money and to gather supplies to send to America’s soldiers. But they also carried on with their lives. Amidst the tension and concern there was still room for laughter. They took care of their families and friends. They socialized and danced.
On Nov. 3, the Arts Council presents A Sentimental Journey. It’s a night of World War II era swing dancing along with a look at what life in America was like during World War II. Capture the spirit of the 1940s with a night of fun-filled music and dance. Take notes as the emcee provides information about how to grow a healthy and fruitful Victory Garden, gives tips about how to stretch your resources (including sugar and butter rations) and offers news updates from the front.
More than 400,000 American service members died in the war and many more died from causes related to the effort. Worldwide it’s estimated that between 50 and 80 million died from World War II or from war-related disease and famine. And when the unthinkable happened, when the news came that a loved one had fallen, Americans buried their service members and mourned their losses. On Friday, Nov. 4, the Town of Spring Lake and the city of Fayetteville will each hold a candlelight vigil to pay tribute to America’s World War II heroes and veterans. The Spring Lake Candlelight Tribute starts at 6:30 p.m. and is at Veterans Memorial Park. After the service, take a candlelit walk to the community recreation center for music, light refreshments and World War II exhibits. The Fayetteville Candlelight Vigil also starts at 6:30 p.m. The event starts at the Arts Council where everyone will meet for a walk to the Airborne & Special Operations Museum garden. At the garden, there will be a ceremony complete with speakers and music to honor World War II veterans and their service to our country.
Nov. 5 is a busy day for Heroes Homecoming with the Fayetteville Veterans Day Parade at 10 a.m. followed by Mayor Nat Robertson’s proclamation to World War II veterans at noon. At 1:30 p.m. ASOM hosts a salute to the veterans with Vincent Speranza. It includes a discussion and book signing with the author and World War II vet. The 101st Airborne Division machine gunner at Bastogne shares his experiences and talks about his book.
Hope Mills proclaims Nov. 6 as Greatest Generation Day with a flag displayed at Veterans Memorial Park for each World War II veteran from Hope Mills. Each flag will bear the name of a veteran along with their branch of service. This flag display lasts until Nov. 11.
On Nov. 11, Cape Fear Botanical Garden, in conjunction with its Nature Connects Art with LEGO Bricks exhibit, hosts Veterans Day at the Garden. It features a mock LEGO Brick battle scene and an American flag build. The garden is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
At 10 a.m. on Nov. 11, Spring Lake hosts a Veterans Day ceremony from 10 - 11 a.m. at the Town of Spring Lake Veterans Park. At 11 a.m. Eastover is set to dedicate a World War II monument as the Eastover Civic Club unveils the monument, which was made from the same granite as the World War II monument in Washington D.C. It’s at Eastover Community Center. Admission is free. At 3 p.m., Hope Mills honors veterans with a wreath laying ceremony at Hope Mills Recreation Center. Refreshments will be available after the ceremony. Admission is free. At 5 p.m., the ASOM Foundation hosts a POW/MIA ceremony to honor missing Americans and their families. Rolling Thunder North Carolina Chapter 1 will attend and host a Missing Man Table Ceremony. It will be followed by a flag retirement ceremony. Admission is free.
Cape Fear Regional Theatre hosts military appreciation nights on Nov. 11-13 with discounted ticket prices for military members. Willian Shakespeare’s Henry V tells the story of warriors, the brotherhood, the valor, the costs and consequences of war. Performances start at 7:30 p.m. Visit www.cfrt.org or call 323.4233 for information and tickets.
Find out more about these events at www.heroeshomecoming.com.