AMC Band concert, other military events slated on community’s patriotic calendar
By Kari Hawkins
Right now, members of the Army Materiel Command Band are working on last minute details – rubbing the final bit of shine into their musical instruments, tuning their sound to match the key of their vocalists and making sure they are each properly fitted to wear the Army’s new uniform during their community debut at Big Spring International Park as part of Armed Forces Celebration Week activities.
This time last year, AMC Band director Chief Warrant Officer 4 Peter Gillies knew exactly where the band would be performing during the week of June 13-18 – at home in Huntsville to a supportive crowd of patriots and under the appreciative eye of AMC commander Gen. Ann Dunwoody. The band’s week includes a featured performance at the Concert in the Park and performances during the AMC Touchdown Ceremony, Armed Forces Salute Reception and Army Birthday Celebration, and Army Community Service Open House.
“Last summer, General Dunwoody told me to set aside this upcoming week because she was going to keep us busy,” Gillies said.
June 13-18 is set aside throughout the Tennessee Valley community as the week of special recognition of the nation’s military. Armed Forces Celebration Week offers local residents a chance to express their appreciation for the nation’s servicemembers and their families, and to enjoy military ceremony and entertainment.
“This community always supports our veterans and the armed forces. We support the military 365 days a year,” Joe Fitzgerald, chairman of the Armed Forces Celebration Week Committee, said.
“But one week out of the year we go the extra mile to really show a special recognition for our military. This community sets that week aside to really demonstrate our support for the military, to openly show all our military what our support really means.”
That support is felt by the Soldiers who call Huntsville and the Tennessee Valley home, either on a temporary or permanent basis. AMC Band members have felt that support since being welcomed to their new home at Redstone Arsenal earlier this year, and Gillies said they are excited about the opportunity to return that support to the community through their performances.
“The Concert in the Park will be the first time the full band will perform in Huntsville,” Gillies said. “We will be playing for a crowd of 3,000 to 5,000 people. Anytime you play for a lot of people, it charges up the band. We enjoy the excitement of the crowd.”
The band’s debut will include a mix of patriotic, light classical, Dixie band and big band music with both instrumentalists and vocalists.
While in many ways the AMC Band is the face of AMC in Huntsville, the Army Forces Celebration Week is a mix of both traditional and new activities meant to honor and recognize all the services. A proclamation signing ceremony at the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce at 8:30 a.m. June 13 will involve both local dignitaries and military leaders, and will serve to kick off the week of activities.
“Armed Forces Celebration Week is a very special part of our community,” Fitzgerald said.
“This year is especially important to our community because we are celebrating the work that has been done to welcome in new commands and new military leaders to our community. You don’t get to welcome a four-star command (AMC) to your community very often. We want AMC to see the outpouring of community support and we want to let our community see AMC. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The week’s theme – “United in Strength” – serves to show the unified commitment between the community and its military to support each other, he said. That commitment is most evident in the committee that plans the Armed Forces Celebration Week and that includes such groups as the cities of Huntsville and Madison, the Chambers of Commerce from Huntsville and Madison, the Arts Council, the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army, the North Alabama Veterans and Fraternal Organizations Coalition, and many local volunteers.
That community-wide support is representative of the community-wide benefits the military has brought to Huntsville and the Tennessee Valley community.
“Without Redstone, this community would not be what it is,” Mike Ward of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce said. “It’s important for us to thank the military for what they do to protect us, keep us safe, and, of course, the economic impact of Redstone Arsenal. This is our way of thanking Redstone Arsenal for being here.”
Once the proclamation is signed, the celebration will continue on June 13 with the annual NCO/Soldier of the Year Award Luncheon at the Overlook on Redstone beginning at 11 a.m. Luncheon reservations can be made by contacting Sheila Crutcher at firstname.lastname@example.org or Bruce Cline at email@example.com, or by calling Cline at 955-6925.
The day will close with the AMC Band’s performance at the Concert in the Park set for 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Big Spring International Park. The event will include a presentation of the Community Covenant and a fireworks show.
On June 14, two productions of the Army Soldier Show will be presented at the Von Braun Center Concert Hall, with one at 3 p.m. and another at 7. Tickets for the Soldier shows are available from Family and Morale Welfare and Recreation and from the Chamber of Commerce beginning today. For more ticket information, call 876-4531.
“The Soldier Show has been part of our week celebration for many years,” Fitzgerald said. “That is something the community always looks forward to. The performances are very popular.”
On June 15, the community will officially celebrate the opening of the Army Materiel Command’s new headquarters at a 9:30 a.m. AMC Touchdown Ceremony.
“To me, this is the highlight of the week,” Ward said. “We are welcoming the four-star command. Huntsville and Redstone Arsenal is finally officially the home of a four-star command. It is a banner day for Huntsville and the state of Alabama.
“Although this event won’t end the 2005 BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure recommendations that led to much of the Arsenal’s present day growth), it is certainly closing a big chapter of that process.”
The AMC event will be followed by an Armed Forces Salute Reception and Army Birthday Celebration from noon to 2 p.m. at the Von Braun Center’s North Hall. The reception will feature the Army Materiel Command Band, and comments from AMC commander Gen. Ann Dunwoody and Gov. Robert Bentley. Registration for the reception is required and can be made by contacting Steve Humphrey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“A formal salute dinner to honor the armed forces and the Army birthday has long been a part of our celebration. But this year is unusual because for the first time we are having a reception instead,” Fitzgerald said.
“The idea for a lower key reception was decided because it is more in keeping with the circumstances our community is facing as a result of the (April 27) tornadoes. A formal salute dinner, a gala, just wasn’t in keeping with those circumstances. At the reception, we will donate funds from the event to Gov. Bentley for tornado disaster relief.”
Gov. Bentley’s appearance at both the AMC Touchdown Ceremony and the salute reception sends a message of welcome to AMC from the state of Alabama, Fitzgerald said.
“It’s important that Gov. Bentley is here to welcome our state’s first four-star general and to welcome our first four-star command,” he said. “He will officially be welcoming AMC to the Alabama.”
On June 16, the community will participate in another ceremony – this one to officially welcome the Army Contracting Command/Expeditionary Contracting Command to the Arsenal during a 9 a.m. uncasing ceremony at building 3334A on Wells Road.
Also on June 16, the Army Community Service (building 3338) annual open house is set for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. This year’s event will include a special tribute to military spouses. The event will include refreshments.
Events on June 16 will end with a Sidewalk Arts Stroll on the courthouse square in downtown Huntsville from 4 to 8 p.m. For more information on the event, visit www.sidewalkartsstroll.com.
On June 17, the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army will hold a golf tournament at the Links at Redstone beginning at 8 a.m. Pre-registration is required by contacting Mike Kelley at email@example.com.
The week’s activities will conclude on June 18 with the AUSA Huntsville Stars Military Appreciation Night beginning at 6:43 p.m. at Joe Davis Stadium. Fireworks will follow the baseball game.
In addition, several local attractions will offer free or discounted tickets to the military throughout Armed Forces Celebration Week. Military identification card is required for free admission. Museums offering free or discounted admission to military include:
U.S. Space & Rocket Center – Museum admission is free to all military and their immediate family. The IMAX/3D movie is an additional $8 for adults and $7 for children.
Huntsville Botanical Garden – Free admission is offered to any member of the armed forces – active or retired – and their immediate family with military identification.
Burritt on the Mountain – Free admission to any member of the armed forces – active or retired – and their immediate family.
EarlyWorks Museum – Museum admission free to active duty military and their immediate families.
Huntsville Museum of Art – Museum admission free to active duty military and their families.
Sci-Quest, the North Alabama Science Center Inc. – Museum admission free to any member of the armed forces — active or retired – and their immediate family.
Veterans Memorial Museum – Free to active military identification card holders, and a discount will be offered for retired military and family members.
Editor’s note: For a calendar of events, visit www.HuntsvilleAlabamaUSA.com and click on the upcoming events link.