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JBLM has a super celebration with Armed Forces Day

Event enjoyed by thousands

Northwest Guardian

Published: 05:37PM May 22nd, 2014

The doors of Joint Base Lewis-McChord opened to the public for the annual Armed Forces Day celebration Saturday.

JBLM invited civilian families to celebrate with service members and their families. While on-base, they got a close look at some of the vehicles and equipment used by Soldiers and Airmen.

“It lets the public see what’s going on here,” said Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Czechowski of 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade. “It also shows them where their taxpayer dollars are going.”

Units set up Strykers, tanks, helicopters, Humvees and other vehicles in and around Cowan Stadium on JBLM Lewis Main.

Ruby Megias enjoyed showing her nephew, Colten Hollenbeck, 8, some of the vehicles his dad sees daily on JBLM.

“It’s not every day you get to climb into these and touch the buttons,” Megias said.

Many units brought other tools of the military trades, including radios, satellites and medical equipment.

The 110th Chemical Battalion brought out of its PackBots, a ground robot primarily used by Soldiers to determine whether an area is contaminated by chemical agents.

“We’re really excited to show everyone the Army isn’t just about guns and tanks,” Staff Sgt. Austin Calica said.

At neighboring Memorial Stadium, historical re-enactment groups brought equipment, vehicles and weapons from past wars in U.S. military history, including the World Wars and the Revolutionary War.

While there were plenty of cannons, shotguns and swords, groups like the Friends of Kilroy brought some of the tools used during World War II by the 295th Combat Engineer Battalion.

“We are preserving the memory of the men and women who served,” said Peter Lahmann of Friends of Kilroy. “Kids always talk about the guns and tanks, but there are other people who serve and these people need love too.”

It also gives retirees like Mike Emmons a chance to share war stories as well as his collection of Vietnam War memorabilia. Emmons’ crown jewel was an M151 Military Unit Tactical Truck, which caught the eye of several other historical re-enactors.

“I have more veterans tell me they haven’t seen this ‘jeep’ for 40 years,” Emmons said. “That’s what makes it fun.”

The Armed Forces Day celebration wasn’t only about current and past military equipment and weapons. Families living on- or off-base enjoyed carnival rides, fair-style food and vendors with fun games for prizes.

Many JBLM units raised money for their family readiness groups, including the 6th Military Police (CID) Brigade, who placed some of their warrant officers in a dunk tank as targets for children and adults.

“It’s been mostly kids,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Curt Sparling. “Of course my daughter wanted to be the first one.”

Sparling said it was great for the CID to have the dunk tank because the JBLM community usually only sees them during their criminal investigations.

“So it’s nice when they see us in a positive light,” Sparling said.