Fort Clinch Turns Public's Eye to American History's Soldiers

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Byline: Alison Trinidad, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

A celebration of America's fighting forces and hometown heroes Saturday at Fort Clinch State Park will help needy families this Thanksgiving.

The park will host its fourth "History of the American Soldier," a tribute to veterans of the armed forces. In a narrated performance at the fort, actors will portray soldiers from each major military conflict in American history.

The living time-line will move through history by song, dress and weaponry, from the flintlock musket to the M-16 rifle, from Yankee Doodle to God Bless America.

Park fees are waived that night in exchange for canned food, which will be donated to the Barnabas Center, a Nassau County organization that helps needy families with food, money and clothing.

"This is the park service's salute to veterans," Fort Clinch park ranger and event coordinator Frank Ofeldt said.

The event will pay special tribute to women and blacks in the military, and veterans of the Korean War. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Korean War's end.

"Women are flying jet fighters, engaging combatants and fighting for their lives," Ofeldt said. "They really have earned their place and are as fierce fighters as men are."

Black re-enactors will honor the Civil War's 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first formal all-black Army unit, and the Harlem Hellfighters, an all-black New York National Guard regiment that fought in World War I under the French flag because the United States refused to allow African-American soldiers in combat.

During the 1-hour, 15-minute event, three Korean War veterans from Nassau County will receive long overdue medals, including a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, Ofeldt said. …