The numerous parades and special tributes across our region for Memorial Day weekend are a testament to the high regard area residents have for their veterans, both active and retired.
An inspiring service at my own church included a music video tribute to honor the more than two dozen congregation members who served or are now serving in the military.
This weekend, the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum, located at the Reading Airport, offers us the opportunity to extend that honor and personally thank the dwindling number of World War II veterans among us for their service. Since last year's show, a number of noteworthy Pennsylvania veterans have passed away, including Maj. Dick Winters of the 101st Abn. Inf. Div. (acclaimed in the "Band of Brothers" movie); and Capt. Frank Speer, the P-51 Mustang ace from Emmaus who died in March at the age of 89.
This is the 21st anniversary of the show and this weekend's lineup for families and history buffs alike is more impressive than ever. For those who enjoy living history, it doesn't doesn't get any better than seeing the preserved planes, vehicles and period equipment, as well as the personnel who flew, drove or operated them. Throughout the weekend, visitors can hear guest speakers recount their experiences of 70 years ago in their own words. You also have an opportunity to greet and speak to many of them one-on-one.
One of the more interesting guests in this year's lineup is Joseph L. Lockard, who, while working the Opana Ridge Radar Installation, was the first person to see Japanese planes approaching Pearl Harbor on his radar screen on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
A number of survivors of The Malmedy Massacre, a war crime in which 84 American prisoners of war were murdered by their German captors on Dec. 17, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, will be represented.
Severin Fayerman, a survivor of Nazi labor and concentration camps, including Kamionka, Auschwitz, Birkinau, Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, and Siemens, is also among the expected guests.
Since many of the veterans are well into their 80s and 90s, the schedule is subject to change due to health issues, weather factors or other last-minute issues.
The show also features 200 military vehicles, including motorcycles to jeeps to tanks, and over 1,700 military and civilian re-enactors, many of which will be participating in mock battles during the day.
The entertainment and home front exhibits are also a highlight of the weekend. The recreated studio of station "WRDG" offers an inside look at a live radio broadcast drama during the Depression and war years. Two female trios – the "Ladies for Liberty" and "The Manhattan Dolls" – will take listeners on an Andrews Sisters' style "Sentimental Journey." The 1940s Big Band concerts and dances will highlight the evening itinerary.
The sights and sounds of World War II Weekend are a tremendous learning experience for the whole family. Visit the MAAM website at http://www.maam.org/maamwwii.html to learn more details on the show.
By Jim Zbick