Armed Forces Day celebration set for May 18
Blue Diamond Aviation and the Russellville Airport Authority are hoping to have a day full of history on May 18 – both making it and learning about it.
The Russellville Municipal Airport will be hosting a special Armed Forces Day festival with activities scheduled throughout the day starting with the Glory Hill Half Marathon, Franklin County’s first ever half marathon; a Nautical Mile Run, which organizers think is the first of its kind to ever be held anywhere; and a special presentation to dedicate a wall in the airport terminal to the Tuskegee Airmen and a presentation by Dr. Daniel Haulman, co-author of “The Tuskegee Airmen: An Illustrated History: 1939-1949,” followed by a book signing and a meet-and-greet with the representatives of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Dick Tutich, chairman of the Russellville Airport Authority, said the event first started out as just a nautical mile run and an aviation swap meet but morphed into a day full of events.
“When I first started looking into the nautical mile run, I thought it would be something interesting to do because I couldn’t find where a similar event had ever been held anywhere else in the world,” Tutich said.
He said a nautical mile is something used in aviation and boating and amounts to 6,076 ft. as opposed to a standard mile, which is 5,280 ft.
“It seems like this would be the first event of its kind, and I thought that would be something special for Franklin County to have,” he said.
“We are getting a new ramp put in at the airport, however, and that caused us to change some of our plans for the event, and we were also approached by some runners who said we could attract more attention if we added a half marathon with the nautical mile run so we started changing the plans.”
In the meantime, Harry Mattox, Blue Diamond Aviation and Russellville Airport manager, was also working on a time to dedicate a special wall of fame in the airport terminal to the Tuskegee Airmen, which is the name given to the very first African-American military pilots who fought in World War II.
Mattox said eight members of the Tuskegee Airmen visited the Russellville Municipal Airport in 2008 and since that time, he has been working on a wall of fame containing framed pictures of the airmen and other memorabilia.
“Tom McKnight had a relative who was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen and he brought me the final artifacts I needed for the wall,” Mattox said.
“When I had everything in order, I told him we needed to formally dedicate the wall to the Tuskegee Airmen. Armed Forces Day usually passes by without much notice, so I thought what better day to honor these men than a day when we honor all the men and women who serve in the country’s armed forces.”
The two events, the marathon and fun run and the Tuskegee Airmen presentations, eventually morphed together to create a day of celebrating the men and women who serve.
Tutich said all proceeds from the marathon and nautical mile run would be given to support local soldiers and their families and to the Hope for the Warriors Foundation.
Haulman, the featured speaker and co-author who is also the organizational history division chief at the U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, will be highlighting the service of the Tuskegee Airmen before actual representatives of the Tuskegee Airmen speak to the crowd.
“This is going to be a great event for people of all ages,” Tutich said.
“The half marathon will take runners through some gorgeous countryside and the nautical mile is easy enough for anyone to be part of and will allow participants to make history.
“The dedication of the Tuskegee Airmen Wall of Fame and the presentations by Dr. Haulman and Tuskegee Airmen representatives will also be great chances to learn more about an important part of our country’s history.
“We also have some great entertainment and food vendors lined up, so we hope everyone will come out for this great event.”
Entry fees are $50 for the half marathon ($20 for military, spouses or students) and $20 for the nautical mile run ($40 for a nautical mile run family rate).
Half marathon awards will be given to overall male, overall female, overall male master, overall female master, and age group awards for the top three finishers, both male and female, in the following age groups: 10-14, 15-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69, and 70+.
Nautical mile participants who are 14 and under all receive special finisher’s dog tags.
To register online, go to www.active.com and search for “Glory Hill.” Participants can also register the morning of the event.
For questions about the event, call 256-331-9000.
Armed Forces Day Festival schedule:
7 a.m. Glory Hill Half Marathon begins (four-hour time limit)
9 a.m. Nautical Mile Run begins
12 p.m. Flag retirement ceremony by Cub Scout Pack 39
1 p.m. Posting of the colors by American Legion Post 31 color guard
Pledge of Allegiance by Cub Scout Pack 39
Singing of the National Anthem by St. Paul CME Church gospel choir
Invocation by Rev. B.J. Bonner
Welcome by Dick Tutich and recognition of public officials
Tuskegee Airmen Wall of Fame Dedication by Russellville Mayor David Grissom
Tuskegee Airmen representative remarks
2-3 p.m. Dr. Daniel Haulman presentation
3 p.m. Post 31 Color Guard rifle salute
3:25 p.m. Book signing, Tuskegee Airmen meet-and-greet, Wall of Fame viewing
4 p.m. Entertainment by the St. Paul CME Church gospel choir
5 p.m. Benediction by Rev. Charles Dale