With Fort Bragg at the heart of the community, the people of Cumberland and the surrounding counties don’t wait for Veterans Day to say thank you to America’s veterans. They do it every day in all kinds of ways. So when Veterans Day comes around, it seems like a little something extra is in order to send the message home.
For the past two years, along with honoring all of America’s veterans, Heroes Homecoming has shone a spotlight on veterans of specific conflicts and reached out to tens of thousands of veterans to welcome them home, to honor them and to celebrate their accomplishments.
This year Heroes Homecoming focuses on Korean War veterans. About 5.72 million American soldiers fought in the Korean War, (more than 70,000 of them hailed from North Carolina) yetit is often called the Forgotten War. Friday, Nov. 8 through Monday, Nov. 11, Fayetteville is set to celebrate Veterans Day and honor Korean War vets.
“With the parade celebrating Korean Vets, we thought we should build on this,” said John Meroski, president/CEO Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The Korean War is the only war with a TV series about it. This year is the 30th anniversary of that show — M*A*S*H — and it is also the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. We were able to get several of the characters from M*A*S*H to come and be a part of the weekend.”
Loretta Switt (Hot Lips Hoolahan), Jamie Farr (Klinger) and William Christopher (Father Mulcahy) will all be on hand to help the community say thank you to America’s vets.
On Friday, the public is invited to attend a candlelight vigil at the N.C. Veterans Park. It starts at 6 p.m. and concludes at 8 p.m. at the Arts Council with a special screening of the final episode of M*A*S*H.
On Saturday, don’t miss a long-standing tradition, the Veterans Day Parade, at 10 a.m. in downtown Fayetteville. George Breece, who cochairs the Veterans Day Parade with Kirk deViere, is excited about this year’s event.
“We’ve got approval for a fly-over, which is always an exciting part of the parade,” said Breece. “Right now, we have 83 units in the parade. And something we are doing differently this year is that all of the JROTC units, which usually march with their high school bands, came to us and said that they want to march together. So we will have Navy, Air Force and Army JROTC units marching together in the parade.”
The event is set for broadcast on WRAL, and WUNC-TV, as well. “This is seen in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia,” said Breece. “I’m thrilled for the opportunity to show our community like this and to have this image of Fayetteville out there.”
City Manager Ted Voorhees will lead the Pledge of Allegiance and Erin Murdoch will sing the National Anthem. In the reviewing stand look for Fort Bragg Commanding General Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson; Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, commander of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command; and Wing Commander of the 441 Airlift Command, Brig. Gen. James Scanlan; as well as other local dignitaries.
“A few members of Congress have said that they hope to attend, too,” said Breece.
Along with the military units, service organizations, law enforcement, Veterans Affairs organizations, military heritage organizations and law enforcement will be represented. Perhaps one of the most moving floats is the Fort Bragg Daisy/Brownie Troop 1290.
“All of the girls in this troop are military children and all of their fathers have served at least once overseas,” said Breece. “The girls are ages 5-8 and they are coming out to say thank you to our veterans. It definitely pulls on the heart strings.”
The Grand Marshall this year is Korean War Veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, Corporal Rodolfo (Rudy) Hernandez. The Honorary Parade Chair is Sgt. Maj. Jacob (Jake) G. Roth Jr., who was a prisoner of war during the Korean War.
At noon, following the parade, a formal veterans ceremony is planned at the N.C. Veterans Park. Stay and spend the afternoon enjoying family friendly fun and entertainment.
On Sunday, Korean War vets, along with the visiting celebrities, will tour Fort Bragg. “So many of our soldiers shipped out through Fort Bragg, in fact, Womack is named after a Korean War Vet,” said Meroski. “We hope to give people a chance to remember and share their stories.”
After the tour, which is for Korean War Vets only, the public is invited to a meet and greet with the members of the cast of M*A*S*H at the N.C. Veterans Park at 3 p.m. The cast will sign autographs, answer questions and pose for photographs. Who knows, maybe it will include a peck on the cheek from Hot Lips Houlihan, too.
Find out more about Heroes Homecoming III at www.heroeshomecoming.com. To find out more about the Veterans Day Parade call 920-0045 or e-mail VeteransDayParade@gmail.com.
Photo: Join several characters from the cast of M*A*S*H as they honor Korean War veterans at Heroes Homecoming III.
This year’s Heroes Homecoming will feature special appearances by three of the cast members from the hit TV series M*A*S*H. Jamie Farr (Corporal Klinger), Loretta Swit (Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan), and William Christopher (Father Mulcahy) will be in town to participate in a number of Heroes Homecoming III events, helping to pay tribute and say thank you to our brave Korean War veterans.
* Airing on CBS in the 1970s, M*A*S*H was a popular American television series about a team of medical professionals and support staff stationed at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War. With eleven seasons and the most watched series finale of all-time, the “dramedy,” showed the effects of war not only on those fighting but those that repaired the ones who were fighting.
* M*A*S*H stands for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital
* The series finale was watched by over 105 million viewers
* The stories on M*A*S*H were based on real-life tales told by hundreds of actual M*A*S*H surgeons
* Starting Oct. 21, the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County will be showing the entire M*A*S*H series, from beginning to end. Fans will be able to drop in on the free marathon screenings at anytime while they’re going on throughout the three weeks prior to the start of Heroes Homecoming III. It all leads up to the special screening of the M*A*S*H finale on Nov. 8 at 8 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. 9 a.m.-5p.m.; Fri. 9 a.m.-12 p.m.; Sat. 12-4 p.m. Call 323-1776 for viewing details.