Byline: TIA MITCHELL, The Times-Union
In the courtyard of The Jacksonville Landing on Saturday, a man played Amazing Grace on bag pipes, followed by a 21-gun salute. Then a sailor trumpeted out Taps.
During the Armed Forces Day ceremony, military personnel and veterans in the audience stood and saluted. Bonnie and Bill Castleberry of Middleburg, who were in the middle of lunch at a nearby restaurant, stood at their table and joined the civilians who rose to their feet and held their hands over their hearts.
Their son, an Army soldier who served seven months in Kuwait, is no longer overseas. But the couple's admiration of him and the thousands others who served is what brought the two to the Landing.
"The reason we have freedom is the men and women that have died for us," Bonnie Castleberry said.
The Armed Forces Day Celebration was as much about patriotism as it was about American history. Memorabilia, including authentic costumes, from every war in American history were on display.
Frank Ofeldt spent much of the day giving the Cliffs Notes version of the Spanish American War.
"A lot of people are very unfamiliar with it because it was a short war. It only lasted five months," said Ofeldt, a ranger at Fort Clinch State Park.
He explained to people how the war began in April 1898 partially because Americans believed the Spanish blew up the battleship Maine in Havana harbor.
By the time the conflict ended, the United States had taken control of several Spanish territories, including Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders were heroes, and the country was officially a world power.
It was after the war that the military determined an explosion on the battleship could have caused the incident, Ofeldt said.
There were rifles from the Revolutionary War and vehicles similar to the ones deployed during World Wars I and II.
Representing Operation Iraqi Freedom were several military vehicles parked outside the front entrance -- the same models as those being used in Iraq today. Members of the Army National Guard showed 9-year-old Timothy Arnold how to steer an Avenger System using a remote unit.
"I just like electronics and stuff and I thought controlling it would be really cool," said Timothy, who admitted that operating the unit was easier than it looked.
Bigger kids were allowed to climb into the cockpit of the Humvee-mounted apparatus and steer it. Teenagers and adults took turns spinning around, raising and lowering the missile launcher as they went. …