May 22--While living in Dallas, it meant a lot to Grady Chism to sit outside on a blanket while listening to a choir singing powerful, patriotic songs and watching fireworks to commemorate Memorial Day. It meant so much that when he moved to the Bryan-College Station area, he decided to bring the tradition with him.
"With A&M and the traditions of B-CS, this town is very patriotic and loves its men and women in the military," Chism said. "As an Army vet, I believe I am very patriotic. I believe God and country go hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly. I wanted to do something for the community to celebrate."
Chism is directing the Stars and Stripes Forever free outdoor patriotic concert with fireworks on Sunday, presented by The Sanctuary Choir and Orchestra and Christ United Methodist Church. It is just one of a few things going on around town in recognition of Memorial Day.
The outdoor program will include a 45-minute choir and orchestra performance, followed by a fireworks show on the church's property. The show will begin at 7:30 p.m. but pre-concert activities will begin at 6:30 and will include a KidZone with bounce houses, face painting, clowns and balloons. The public is invited to bring their lawn chairs, blankets and picnic baskets and get a good spot to sit before the show starts.
"I hope we have a good turnout," Chism said. "There will be a range of patriotic songs. We've been practicing for the last three or four months, and we'll have close to 70 in the choir, plus the orchestra. It's going to be on a stage coming in from Houston. It's going to be a big deal -- a big production. I hope people will come."
On Memorial Day, American Legion Earl Graham Post 159 is holding a Memorial Day ceremony at 11 a.m. with guest speaker Lt. General Joe Weber.
"He [Weber] has a distinguished career, is a good speaker, and he is the kind of guy that we, as veterans, and the general public as well, will understand when he talks about the commitment that every soldier has to serving our country," said John Hince, a member of the post.
"He'll be giving a memorial to those who gave their lives, and he actually knows people who gave their lives, so it's not an abstract holiday for him," Hince said.
The ceremony will also include a prayer, brief comments by the commander of the post or a representative, and will last no more than hour.
Following Memorial Day, on May 31, is the Vietnam War Memorial Dedication at 11 a.m. at Veterans Park. The memorial will feature a UH-1D Huey helicopter backdrop with soldiers approaching a dangerous landing zone.
Capt. Robert Hesselbein will be the keynote speaker. He served as a gunship pilot flying the AH-1G attack helicopter in Vietnam and Cambodia. He retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2000 after flying A-10 and F-16 jet fighters in the U.S. Air Force and later the Wisconsin Air National Guard. All program speakers are Vietnam veterans with the exception of Karoni Forrester, who will speak on behalf of the National League of POW/MIA Families. Forrester is the daughter of U.S. Marine Capt. Ronald Wayne Forrester, Texas A&M Class of '69, who was listed as missing in action on Dec. 27, 1972.
"We hope and expect to get a lot of Vietnam vets in attendance," said Mike Neu, member of the Memorial for All Veterans of the Brazos Valley Inc. "There are quite a few Vietnam vets in town, and we expect there to be some very close ties to what the memorial represents."
The memorial will be the largest in Veterans Park and is fully funded by donors, Neu said. About $154,500 was donated. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit Bvvm.org.
Stars and Stripes Forever, Sunday, 7:30 p.m.Christ United Methodist Church. 4201 Texas 6 S., College Station. Free.
Memorial Day Ceremony, Monday, 11 a.m.101 Waco St., Bryan. Free.
Vietnam War Memorial Dedication, May 31, 11 a.m.Veterans Park. Free.
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