By Christine June
“It’s really beneficial when we can bring a national asset like this one out here because we draw a lot of attention from the public,” said Staff Sgt. (P) James Slough, the Harrisburg Opportunity Center station commander. “Plus, we get to see a lot of people from the local area and a lot of good things come from it.”
The semi offered the public, ages 15 and older, a chance to simulate firing a pistol, driving a MIA-2 Abrams Tank, flying an Apache Helicopter and operating an Explosive Ordnance Disposal robot to grab an Army water bottle as a souvenir.
“Quite a few people have already been through here,” said Slough, within the first half hour of the festivities honoring America’s armed forces.
Interactive displays, aircrafts, tanks, information booths and demonstrations from more than 90 local military organizations and agencies, and veterans groups transformed the island to show the public some of what it takes for the men and women of America’s military to do their jobs.
As a joint services military event, Harrisburg’s Armed Forces Day has been held in the area since the 1970s, said Keith Beebe, the Defense Logistics Agency Corporate Communications director.
During this time, the festivities were held at one of the three military posts in the area: Pennsylvania National Guard Training Center at Fort Indiantown Gap; Naval Support Activity in Mechanicsburg; and, Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Susquehanna in New Cumberland.
That all changed after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Beebe said the festivities were then moved to City Island with the three military posts taking turns cohosting the festivities with the City of Harrisburg. This year it was DLA’s turn as the cohost.
“We are fortunate to be able to hold it here and transform City Island into a military post for the day,” said Beebe, who added that this event is a tradition here to thank and honor America’s armed forces, as well as giving the public a chance to see what the military does.
It’s a tradition that Slough has been a part for the past four years.
“To come out here and take a look at everything America’s military has to offer is one of the best ways to celebrate Armed Forces Day,” Slough said. “Good times – everybody gets together to talk about the way it was and the way it will be in the future.”