Army's birthday celebrations off to running start this week

By Ed Brock

The U.S. Army's turning 228 this week and Army National Guard Capt. Josie Johnson of Rex will be getting a week of birthday celebrations off to a running start.

Johnson, who works at the National Guard Armory outside Forest Park, will be participating in the 5K run of the second annual "Pre-Peachtree ?Hooah' Race" Saturday morning.

"Even though I'm in the guard I wanted to do something," Johnson said.

The Hooah Race, scheduled to begin at 7:45 a.m. in downtown East Point, is the first of several events leading up to Friday's major Army Birthday Celebration at U.S. Army Garrison Fort in Atlanta.

Sunday will be Army Day at Turner Field. The Golden Knights Parachute Team will make an airborne delivery of the ball for that day's Braves baseball game, there will be displays of military equipment and the first 10,000 children under 14 will get free "Army of One" sipper bottles.

The free 2003 Army Soldier Show, a "one-and-a-half hour singin and dancing extravaganza" according to Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem spokesman Ron Morton, will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Clayton County Schools Performing Arts Center.

On Thursday there will be the annual Association of the United States Army golf tournament at noon at the Commons on Fort McPherson. Also on Thursday the Army Ground Forces Band and the 82nd Airborne Division's "All American" Chorus will give a free concert in Centennial Park in Atlanta from noon to 1:15 p.m.

Gov. Sonny Perdue and Army Gen. Larry Ellis will attend Friday's birthday celebration at 10 a.m. that will include a cake cutting, displays of equipment from all wars and a military parade of 400 re-enactors. Those re-enactors will be recreating scenes from the Civil War Battle of Atlanta and the Breakout from the World War II invasion of Normandy.

On Saturday Army, Army National Guard and Reserves, Army civilians, retirees and veterans will attend the Army Birthday Ball in Atlanta.

Having been a runner since high school and a veteran of both the Persian Gulf War and the Peachtree Road Race, Johnson is a born runner.

"It's a good way to vent and a great way to stay in shape without costing a lot of money," Johnson said.

Originally Johnson wanted to enter a team of five of her fellow Guard members in the 10K Hooah Race run, but her boss, also a runner, will be out of town this weekend. Two of her work mates will also be running individually in the 5K.

It shouldn't be too hard, Johnson said.

"I run for fun, I don't run for a living," Johnson said. "I'm a soldier for a living."

The staff at the Performing Arts Center is gearing up with pleasant anticipation of another performance of the Army Soldier show.

"We're always thrilled to have it," said Dan Wilson, the coordinator of the building. "It's always a tremendous show and a great crowd-pleaser."

The audience for last year's show almost filled the center to its 1,800 seat capacity, Wilson said. Even the way the show members set up for their performance is "a highly skilled art form," Wilson said.

The theme for this year's show is "Legacy" and will feature a medley of songs from Motown, show tunes from "Aida" and "Chicago" and even Native American music.