On November 11th, we’ll celebrate Veterans Day, a tribute to the men and women who served in the armed forces during times of both conflict and peace. The date also marks the end of World War I. Many area veterans and their families will take part in ceremonies or visit places that provide insight into the missions and actions seen by generations of American soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen. Our own region is rich in the preservation of military history. Here are a few of my own favorite spots. – Jay Lloyd
This museum, located on the sprawling Air Force base, traces the history of military aviation back to WWI with a stunning indoor and outdoor display of aircraft that captures the evolution of flight. A favorite is the pristine “Flying Fortress,” the workhorse of the bomber squadrons that fought on the World War II European front. They were immortalized in the classic film, “Twelve O’Clock High.” Veteran’s Day ceremonies will begin at 11a.m., and the museum is open from 9 to 4. Admission and parking are free.
The exhibits and artifacts collected for the indoor and outdoor displays focus on Pennsylvanians who served in the armed forces. The more vivid displays on my last visit contained a re-created layout of World War I battlefield conditions with artifacts drawn from trench warfare and an army field hospital. There’s heavy emphasis on the Army and units of the Pennsylvania National Guard here. On Veterans Day, Vets and their families will be admitted free to the 67-acre complex. General adult admission is $6 with discounts for seniors and youngsters. The location near Penn State makes it an ideal side trip while visiting the University.
Annapolis, an early U.S. capitol and home of the Naval Academy, offers an ideal mid-week getaway. Hotels and period B&Bs, a wonderful collection of restaurants and Chesapeake cruises trigger memorable vacations. On November 11th, the academy will provide veterans and their families with special guided tours of the complex that commissioned many of America’s naval and marine corps heroes. “Must-see” stops on an academy tour are the crypt of America’s Revolutionary War hero, John Paul Jones, and the Academy Museum, which traces the development of American naval power through artifacts and displays from the Continental Navy to present day. The academy is open to the public for tours. The Visitor Center is open from 9 to 5.
Coast Guard veterans can make arrangements for tours at the service’s only recruit training center in the country. I went to boot camp here 62 years ago and returned last year for a visit to see incredibly dramatic changes that reflected the evolving mission of the nation’s oldest seagoing service. Scouting and other community groups can also make arrangements to visit the training center and adjacent Coast Guard base to see some of the latest in rescue and patrol cutters. Just navigate here.
Military history in Philly is as close as Penn’s Landing. The Cruiser Olympia was Admiral Dewey’s flagship at the battle of Manila Bay. It takes us back to the Spanish American War and 19th century life aboard a major American warship. Alongside, you’ll find the World War II submarine, the Becuna. Both are open for tours, and Veterans Day ceremonies will be held at 11a.m. Veterans and active duty military will have free admission to the ships and the museum from 10 to 5.
Just across the Delaware River, the Battleship New Jersey has become a landmark. It was launched at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor sent the nation into World War II. The New Jersey, which is open for tours, carried the flag from the Pacific to Lebanon until it was decommissioned in 1991. Veterans Day ceremonies will be held on deck at 11a.m. and attendance is free. For tour hours and tickets, check here.
Tip: Local Veterans Day ceremonies will be held throughout the region. Most communities will have details and times listed on their municipal websites.