If the Crown Theatre could speak, it surely would have let out a lusty “Hoo-aah!” on Monday, May 19, as the 41-year-old building was renamed and rededicated in honor of our nation’s fighting men and women.
    As local dignitaries, politicians, military officers and enlisted men looked on, a red-white-and-blue ribbon stretching across the front door of the Crown Theater was sliced as easily as a hot bayonet through butter, transforming the facility into the Cumberland County Memorial Auditorium: a true journey through the past as Cumberland County Memorial  Auditorium was the facility’s original name when it was opened way back in 1967 — it was re-christened the Crown Theatre in 2002 by then-CEO Rick Reno for marketing purposes.{mosimage}
    It was only fitting that the man wielding the scissors which gave the Cumberland County Memorial Auditorium back its glory was Sgt. First Class Michael Onstine, who was recently awarded the Silver Star medal for heroics in Iraq. Onstine, despite being wounded in the shoulder and both legs by shrapnel during a pitched battle, held back a band of 20 insurgents single-handedly with cover fire from his M-1 and grenades while his platoon, pinned down by enemy fire, was able to safely withdraw.
    Onstine’s grit and bravery, and that of all soldiers, past and present, who have walked the streets of Fayetteville, and Baghdad and Siagon, was recognized by Dr. Jeannette Council, vice chairman of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners.
    “Many of the soldiers who served in Vietnam trained here in Fayetteville,” said Council. “And now we are at war again in the desert of Iraq. It is right and appropriate that this complex be renamed in honor of our military. This building is proof of what they have done and how we hold them in our hearts.”
    Lifelong Fayetteville resident Mayor Tony Chavonne invoked the rich past of the complex, citing the many great performers and shows that took place there back in the glory days. You could almost hear the whip snap and the tiger’s roar as Chavonne described the childhood wonder of watching the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus perform inside those brick walls; the mayor even invoked the King, Elvis Presley, who played here, taking with him the hearts of thousands of screaming, swooning women when he finally left the building.
    But the true kings on this day didn’t carry a bullwhip or come adorned in rhinestones: the royalty on this warm, windy morning wore military braid black, burgundy, tan and green berets, and combat boots.
Eighth District Congressman Robin Hayes wore his own military regalia as he honored the soldiers, particularly those of the 82nd Airborne Division.
    “I am wearing an 82nd Airborne hat and pin today,” said Hayes. “General Bill Caldwell gave me this old, raggedy hat, which I recently wore when we opened a VA hospital in Hamlet.
    “It’s an All-American day as we pay tribute to the men and women who provide us the freedoms and the right to practice our religion,” said Hayes, who added an aside to the recent chapel controversy at Fayetteville’s VA Hospital, “We’re taking care of that little issue at the chapel and we will get it worked out.”
    After the rededication ceremony, entertainment was provided by the internationally renowned 82nd Airborne Division All-American Chorus, which performed such rousing, patriotic numbers as Your’re in the Army Now, Mr. Smith and America The Beautiful, finishing with an appropriate and heartfelt version of Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA.
    On this day, citizens and soldiers were especially proud to be Americans, basking in the glory of the Crown.

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