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Salute to Army's 228th Birthday

By Ed Brock

The U.S. Army's 228 years of history will come alive at Army Garrison Fort McPherson in Atlanta this Friday.

A cake cutting with Gov. Sonny Perdue, "living history" presentations on military equipment from the Roman Empire to Desert Storm and reenactments of major Civil War and World War II battles are some of the events planned to celebrate the Army's birthday. And it's all open to the public.

"We're ready to rock and roll," said Mike Criscillis, curator at "The Army in Atlanta Museum" on Fort McPherson's grounds and organizer of Friday's events.

While the Army has always celebrated its birthday, the major events such as the reenactments have been held at Fort McPherson, the parent institution of Fort Gillem in Forest Park, started in 2000, Criscillis said.

"We kicked off the Korean War 50th anniversary at the same time," Criscillis said. "We did the living history events and people loved it so much they asked us to do it again."

The living history events will take place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and include static displays of equipment as well as reenactors dressed in outfits from various time periods.

"Living history folks from all over the eastern United States are coming to this," Criscillis said.

The other events will begin at 10 a.m. with a military parade of 400 reenactors and the cake cutting. At 11 a.m. part of the Civil War Battle of Atlanta will be reenacted followed at 11:30 a.m. by a reenactment of the Break Out from Normandy during World War II.

Criscillis said the events have done a lot to help promote the museum that has been open for about a year. Fran Stephenson, a docent at Stately Oaks in Jonesboro, will be helping out at the museum while dressed in Civil War period clothes on Friday morning.

"I've done it ever since they started doing it. I like it because I'm an Army brat," said Stephenson, whose father and husband served in the Army.

For 14-year-old Jason Fitts of Griffin, who will play an infantryman in the Civil War enactment, the event will be the biggest enactment in which he has participated. But he doesn't know if he'll survive the battle yet or not.

"I'll know Friday morning," Fitts said.

Friday's celebration will cap a week of events centered around the Army's birthday that began with the "Hooah Race" on Saturday. Army National Guard Capt. Josie Johnson of Rex said she placed second in her age division in the 5K run for the race.

Tuesday night a cast of volunteer, active-duty soldiers took the stage at the Clayton County Schools Performing Arts Center in Morrow for the 2003 Army Soldier Show. They performed musical numbers from "Aida" and "Chicago" and even did a Native American Hoop Dance.

"It was a packed house. They were turning people away," Fort McPherson/Fort Gillem spokesman Ron Morton said.

On Wednesday the Association of the United States Army sponsored their annual golf tournament at the Commons at Fort McPherson and today at noon the Army Ground Forces Band and the 82nd Airborne Division "All American" Chorus will give a free concert at Centennial Park in Atlanta.