First look: planning underway for Cullman’s annual Veterans Day Celebration on Nov. 3


Reenactors from Wallace State portray various World War II figures at a press conference for this year’s Cullman Veterans Day Celebration. The press event took place Wednesday at Cullman’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2214. (Hayden Hyatt for The Tribune)

CULLMAN – Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs, event representatives and World War II reenactors met at Cullman’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2214 Wednesday to announce the features of the upcoming annual Cullman Veterans Day Celebration, which will take place on Nov. 3 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Cullman Regional Airport.

The celebration will feature Wallace State reenactors, historic military aircraft and other military vehicle displays, a climbing wall and a performance by the U.S. Army Silver Wings parachute team. Admission and parking will be free.

Patrick James, publicity chairman for this year’s celebration, is hoping for an even bigger event than in years past.

“We've had a pretty good attendance at this event over the past few years and we're hoping to attract an even larger crowd this year,” said James. “According to our Veterans Affairs representatives at the Cullman County Courthouse, we have over 7,000 veterans living in our county; we have a lot of local vets to honor and thank.”

Jacobs spoke about some of key features of the celebration.

“For our history buffs, and especially our Navy veterans, the Commemorative Air Force in Peachtree City, Georgia is going to be here and they're bringing a World War II Corsair (fighter plane),” said Jacobs. “(The event will also feature) a Dauntless Dive Bomber from WWII, if you want a ride in that, they're going to be doing that. Also, the U.S. Army is going to have their Silver Wings parachute team, and that's always exciting to see those guys jumping.”

Rides will be offered on three different historical aircraft at the celebration: a Huey Helicopter, a Dauntless Dive Bomber plane and a Cobra attack helicopter. There is a limited amount of tickets. The costs are $85 per person for the Huey, $325 per person for the Cobra and $995 for the Dauntless.

Ret. Major Robert Stephens, a former Cobra pilot during the Vietnam War, spoke about his experience with the historic helicopter.

“Just to give you a little perspective about a Cobra, my first tour I flew B models and we'd tour around in the sky at 80 knots and that's about all you could do,” said Stephens. “You couldn't get away from anything. My second tour over there, I was fortunate enough to fly the AH-1G (Cobra), by the way, this was the world’s first dedicated attack helicopter. To give you an idea of the advancement we had, think about a 1939 Ford (truck), a '39 ford could do 80 miles an hour basically and that's what we were doing basically in a B model helicopter. Along comes a Cobra, think of a Maserati or a Ferrari or something like this, that can do 200 miles an hour. That's the difference between the B model and the AH-1G. It gave us a tremendous advantage, and if you ever tried to get away from a bullet, you'll appreciate how fast you can go.”

Leigh Ann Courington, a history instructor at Wallace State, was at the announcement and brought along a team of WWII reenactors who will also be at the celebration in November. According to Courington, the theme the reenactors will focus on is the Pacific theater of WWII.

The reenactors portrayed Major Pappy Boyington, a Marine pilot with the Black Sheep Squadron that flew the Corsair, and Mrs. John Bolton, the wife of John Bolton, who was a Marine pilot in the same squadron. Other reenactors portrayed Navy Lt. Dick Best, a pilot of the Dauntless Dive Bomber, Private Quinn, of the U.S. Army's 77th Infantry Division, and Rosie the Riveter, the star of a recruiting campaign for defense industries during WWII. Courington was in costume herself, portraying Frances Langford, a singer who traveled with Bob Hope and the USO.

In addition to those reenactors, there will be others dressed in period dress, and the Wallace State Jazz Band will be performing a Glenn Miller 40s swing concert. Veterans are invited to partake in free coffee and donuts at the lounge inside the terminal at the airport.

The mayor encouraged any veterans, family members of veterans or citizens of Cullman to come out for the event.

“As mayor I'm honored to be a part of this event,” said Jacobs. “I want to encourage all our citizens and their friends and any veterans that they know to please mark down Nov. 3. Folks, this one is the best (Veterans Day celebration) in north Alabama, in my opinion.”

Cullman’s Veterans Day Celebration is sponsored by the Cullman City Council, Cullman County Commission, various local municipal governments and the local business community.

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