Honoring those who served

Roland Leiser

Fayetteville, N.C., the home of the Army’s Fort Bragg, puts on an annual show in November to honor the nation’s veterans, focusing this year on the men and women who served in World War II.

More than half of the exhibits at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum relate to World War II.
More than half of the exhibits at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum relate to World War II.

Named the Heroes Homecoming, Cumberland County developed the event to give veterans the “thank you that they deserve, and make sure they are not forgotten,” said John Meroski, of the Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“We want to catch their legacy,” especially since their numbers are decreasing daily, he added.

Three surrounding communities of Eastover, Spring Lake, and Hope Mills also will be hosting events.

Most events take place Nov. 3–6. On Nov. 5, a city parade along a 1.5-mile route will feature 100 units, including bands, floats, and military equipment, sponsored by the Cumberland County Veterans Council. Some veterans will be riding on floats, while others will watch from the sidelines in VIP sections. On the preceding Saturday, Oct. 29, the Eastover Civic Club, 7 miles from Fayetteville, will stage its own celebration with WWII exhibits, food, and music.

All members of the military and veterans are welcome. Online sign-up forms will help visitors to decide what events to attend. With one exception, all events are free.

Meroski expects at least 200 World War II vets to show, but he would be happy to see as many as 500. Total participants, including families, could number up to 1,000 over the five days.

Insider tip: Check the area’s hotels and motels for military discounts. Embassy Suites, for example, offers a 10 percent discount for those with a military ID.

Each day of the Heroes Homecoming celebration includes from one to five events and the five celebrations on Nov. 5 will run 10:00am–7:30pm.

  • Nov. 3 — The Arts Council has scheduled swing dancing and stories about growing up in the WWII era.The Cape Fear Regional Theater will perform Shakespeare’s Henry V (“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers …”). Tickets are $15.
  • Nov. 4 — Fayetteville’s downtown businesses will offer exhibits and other WWII-related and homecoming activities.Spring Lake’s Recreation and Parks Department will hold a memorial event, followed by a candle-lit walk in the veterans’ honor. The walk will end at the recreation center, which will feature WWII exhibits and music.

    The same evening, Fayetteville’s Arts Council will hold a candlelight vigil with participants walking to the North Carolina Veterans’ Park to hear speakers and music.

  • Nov. 5 — Events include the annual Fayetteville Veterans’ parade, the mayor’s proclamation, and a book signing by Vincent Speranza, a veteran of WWII’s 101st Airborne Division. These happenings are sponsored by the Airborne and Special Operations Museum Foundation. More than half of the museum’s exhibits are WWII-related.The Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum will sponsor a vintage car show as part of the activities, and Fort Bragg will sponsor its 20th annual 10-miler.
  • Nov. 6 — Hope Mills Greatest Generation Day honors the servicemen in Veterans Memorial Park, where a flag will be displayed for each WWII vet from the town.This year’s celebration is linked to the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into the war. Of course, Veterans Day is Nov. 11.

The Heroes Homecoming dates back to 2011 when the community honored Vietnam veterans, followed by those who fought in Iraq, and, in 2013, Korean War veterans. For the following two years, the area recognized Afghanistan vets and women in the military, but the events weren’t similarly packaged, said Meroski.

Fayetteville’s tourism website provides links to accommodations and military sites.

For more information:

Fayetteville Tourism: visitfayettevillenc.com

Heroes Homecoming: heroeshomecoming.com

 

LEGOS IN THE GARDEN

If you’re visiting Fayetteville for the Heroes Homecoming, take time to visit the Cape Fear Botanical Garden for the unique displays of “Nature Connect: Lego Brick Sculptures.” Artist Sean Kinney has created bigger-than-life pieces, such as a tiger swallowtail butterfly and an 8-foot-high hummingbird. The exhibit runs through Jan. 8.

For more information, check capefearbg.org or call 910-486-0221.

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