Downtown flyover set to kick-off Armed Forces Day Parade

Submitted photoU.S. Navy World War II Torpedo Bombers are set to participate in this year's McAlester Armed Forces Day Parade and Fly-In on May 4, with the parade set for downtown McAlester and the Fly-In set to begin at noon at McAlester Regional Airport.

Armed Forces Day Committee Chairman Jeff Wolf talks about the upcoming Armed Forces Day activities in McAlester.

1. Why does McAlester celebrate Armed Forces Day?

Back in 1949, cities were mandated by Congress not to celebrate separate Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force Days. McAlester chose to celebrate Armed forces Day to recognize all of the services. We want to have one, big, well-done event each year. McAlester comes together as a community to celebrate Armed Forces Day. We want to do one event and do it right. This is the 72nd Armed Forces Day in McAlester.

2. When is Armed Forces Day recognized in McAlester this year?

We hold a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, May 3, at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant's Lee Maxwell Center. Tickets are available through the McAlester Chamber of Commerce. The Armed Forces Day Parade is set to start at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 4, in downtown McAlester. It will be followed by the Armed Forces Day Fly-In, set to start at noon Saturday at McAlester Regional Airport. If we were to hold Armed Forces Day during the third week in May, (when it's celebrated nationally) all of the schools would be dismissed and we wouldn't have any student participation.

3. What are some highlights of the Friday luncheon?

We are recognizing the U.S, Coast Guard. Margaret Richards, a McAlester resident who served in the Coast Guard during World War II, will be recognized at our missing man table. Christopher Wright, a local high school graduate, will be recognized for his service. Capt. Roxanne Tamez, who is the U.S. Coast Guard commander of the Sector Lower Mississippi, is featured speaker for this year's Armed Forces Day Luncheon. Those attending the luncheon must have their ticket in hand, and a form of identification, such as a drivers license, to be admitted onto the McAAP grounds.

4. What are some of the things people will see during Saturday's downtown parade?

We'll have everything from military units to marching bands. The 1/180th of the Oklahoma National Guard will be there and the 1245th Transportation Company will participate. Four F-16 fighter jets are set to fly over downtown to open the parade, and vintage War Birds will be flying over, too. The McAlester High School Band, the Coalgate High School Band and the 77th U.S Army Band will all be in the parade. The 77th also has an awesome  jazz ensemble that will perform at the fly-in.

5. What will be happening at the Armed Forces Day Fly-In on Saturday?

People need to go to the north end of the Choctaw Casino parking lot for parking during the fly-in. We will have shuttles going back and forth continuously. They will never stop. Park at the casino and they will be right there. The Cherokee Skydivers, with the American and POW flags, will open the event. When they hit the ground, F-18 Fighter Hornets will give us a buzz. The B-25 God and Country bomber will be there. Other military aircraft and aircraft used for law enforcement, in agriculture and training will be on the runway. It is all free. The local Pepsi company provided the soft drinks. First National Bank is donating the food and cooking it. Frito Lay is donating the chips. Reserve deputies are donating their time. Many others donated, too. This is an amazing community event.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com