Flyover set for Armed Forces Day Parade

U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis

United States Navy Boeing E-6B Mercury of Strategic Communications Wing ONE, Task Group 114.2, based at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, high over Colorado Aug. 23, 2019. The E-6B was refueled by a Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker of the 507th Air Refueling Wing, Air Force Reserve Command, also from Tinker AFB. 

A U.S. Navy E-6B Mercury is set to conduct a flyover of the city to open the McAlester Armed Forces Day Parade.

Described by the Navy as a communications relay and a strategic airborne command post aircraft, it's set to conduct several flyovers during the parade, said Armed Forces Day Committee Chairman Jeff Wolf.

The flyover is among several special events set during two days of AFD activities in McAlester, marking the 75th Diamond Anniversary of the city celebrating the nation's military with the Armed Forces Day Luncheon and the Armed Forces Day Parade.

The AFD Luncheon begins at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, May 6, featuring keynote speaker U.S. Navy Captain Cedrick L. Jessup. Doors open at 11 a.m. for this year's luncheon, held at the Scottish Rite Temple, at Second Street and Washington Avenue in McAlester. 

It's followed by the Armed Forces Day Parade, set for 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 7, in Downtown McAlester. Additional aircraft set to fly over the city during the parade are part of the Tulsa War Birds, including two Russian Yak 50's, a AT-6 Texan and a C-45 Twin Beechcraft, Wolf said.

Parade entries were still coming in this week for Saturday's Armed Forces Day Parade, while some seating remained available for McAlester's Armed Forces Day Luncheon on Friday.

"We have 40 entries," Wolf said as he continued to receive parade entry applications.

Additional aircraft set to fly over the city during the parade are part of the Tulsa War Birds, including two Russian Yak 50's, a AT-6 Texan and a C-45 Twin Beechcraft, Wolf said.

Another special event shaping up for this year's 75th Anniversary Diamond Celebration includes a special swearing-in ceremony of new recruits which will be included in the parade activities.

"A Naval commander will do the swearing-in of new recruits," Wolf said. Plans call for the swearing-in to be held in front of the parade review stand at the corner of Second Street and Choctaw Avenue. U.S. Navy Commander Rick Dorsey, who is executive officer of the Navy Talent Acquisition Group, is set to conduct the swearing-in ceremony for all of the military services.

Wolf said the Naval commander can swear-in members of any of the branches of the U.S. military.

"The Naval officer will swear them all in," Wolf said of the process regarding the special event.

It's expected to take place relatively early in the parade, with the parade led by the 77th U.S. Army Band from Fort Sill in Lawton.

"They will be right behind the 77th Army Band," Wolf said of the new recruits. They will walk the entire parade route, pausing in front of the reviewing stand as the parade heads west on Choctaw Avenue, he said.

Wolf said all of the recruits who will be sworn in are from the McAlester area and were recruited locally. Conducting the swearing-in ceremony in public will allow their friends and relatives to witness the event, Wolf noted.

Parade emcee Kevin Priddle plans to recognize members of the different service branches in the audience around the time the 77th Army Band pauses in front of the reviewing stand, Wolf said.

Stormy weather earlier in the week is expected to move out by Friday. Mostly sunny skies and a high of 77 are forecast for Friday, with near-perfect parade weather of sunny skies and a high of 86 forecast for Saturday.

Wolf is hoping McAlester-area residents fill the street for the AFD Parade and attend the AFD Luncheon.

"Being there is a big 'thank you' to our veterans," Wolf said. "It's a way to show as a community we are a patriotic-minded people and they are not forgotten.

"It's not just a display of military might," Wolf said of AFD activities. "It's a display of appreciation of our veterans." Wolf said seeing the AFD parade while growing up is one of the reasons he joined the military himself.

"Honor, Courage and Commitment," are the core values of the U.S. Navy, the branch of the nation's military service being honored this year during the 2022 AFD events.

Although the Armed Forces Day Parade made a comeback last year, this is the first time in three years the Armed Forces Day Luncheon has been held, following the event's cancelation in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID 19 concerns.

This year's Friday luncheon at the Scottish Rite Temple marks the first time the Indian Chapter of the Scottish Rite is hosting Armed Forces Day events in McAlester. The Indian Chapter of the Scottish Rite stepped up to take on the event after the McAlester Chamber of Commerce's Executive Board voted not to handle AFD activities this year.

Luncheon tickets are $25 for individuals or $200 for a corporate sponsorship table, which seats seven plus a guest seat for a sailor or other military member. Reservations for the luncheon can still be made this week by phoning the Scottish Rite Temple at 918-423-6360 from 8 a.m. through 4 p.m. on Thursday and speaking to Cherie Hamilton.

Wolf said several restaurants are providing professional waiter and waitress staff, so luncheon participants will have their meals served to them at their tables.

In addition to the previously-mentioned parade participants, others include U.S. Navy Special Weapons, the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, the Mid-Del Junior ROTC Color Guard, the McAlester High School Band, the Coalgate High School Band, the Shriners,the reigning Miss McAlester and Miss McAlester Outstanding Teen, the Girl Scouts, and more.

Parade entries are free this year and organizers said it's not too late to participate.

"Parade entry registration forms are available at the McAlester Public Library or at City Hall," said Armed Forces Day Committee spokesperson Lacey Sudderth.

Parade entry forms can also obtained by email at mcalesterafd@gmail.com, Wolf said. Completed forms can be returned by email to the same address of mcalesterafd@gmail.com, he said.

Completed entry forms can also be sent by regular mail to: Attn: McAlester Armed Forces Day Parade / Scottish Rite Temple; P.O. Box 609; McAlester, OK; 74502.

Anyone signing up after May 2 can still participate, but will be placed at the back of the parade, organizers said.

Parade participants are to line up at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 7. Participants will check-in is at the Diamond Trophy and Engraving parking lot at 7 N. A Street, with the parade lineup down A Street. Lineup numbers will be assigned during the week of the parade, organizers said.

As usual, the parade will depart from A Street, head east on Carl Albert Parkway, and turn south for one block on Fifth Street, before turning right and continuing  west down Choctaw Avenue to South Main Street.

No activities are scheduled at McAlester Regional Airport in conjunction with Armed Forces Day activities.

When it looked for a while as if the AFD Parade and Luncheon might not be held this year, Indian Chapter of the Scottish Rite President Dennis Wilson and other Indian Chapter members stepped forward and volunteered to host the event.

"We have connected with a group of people who are passionate about making sure this doesn't go away," Wolf said. "They are as on-fire and passionate as we are. They want to show our veterans we appreciate them."

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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