Spirit of America to retell war history in free show

Hope Cronkright

For the first time in history, a free patriotic live-action show will come to Grand Rapids, Mich. The U.S. Army Military District of Washington presents the Spirit of America at Van Andel Arena on Friday and Saturday.

The Spirit of America brings history to life with live musical entertainment, precision military drills and re-enactments of battles from the revolutionary war up to present day. The two and one-half hour drama is based on historical accounts taken from soldiers’ letters and journals.

“I think it is interesting they chose Grand Rapids and I don’t know why but I am excited about it,” said Valerie Hague, a history major at Grand Valley State University.

Units participating in The Spirit of America include the Continental Color Guard, Caisson Platoon, The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, The U.S. Army Drill Team and The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own.”

These are the same units that were a part of President Ford’s burial ceremony.

The show has been in existence for more than 30 years. The 300 active duty soldiers involved travel around the United States to educate, entertain and inspire the American public.

“(It is) a way for the U.S. army to give back as part of the army’s community relations mission,” said Kristen Parker, public affairs specials for Spirit of America. “It is an opportunity for us to thank them for their support and allow (people) to meet their soldiers.”

The show will open Friday at 10:30 a.m. and continues 7:30 p.m. with two more showings on Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Doors open one hour before show time.

“The veterans who come are brought to tears,” Parker said. “The young kids are excited to meet a real live soldier, like real live G.I. Joes.”

The event is a time to honor the sacrifices of America’s average men and woman who have served in the army. It comes from the perspective of the citizen soldier.

The tally for tickets distributed stands at 34,000, with each performance hall seating 8,500 people. he opening performance is sold out, and although the event is free, it is best to call in advance and reserve tickets. Everyone must present a ticket in order to get into the event and seats are on a first-come, first-serve basis. The Spirit of America can also be viewed online live on the U.S. Army’s Spirit of America website, http://spiritofamerica.mdw.army.mil/history.html.

“Seeing it in person is going to be different and you don’t get that chance a lot,” Hague said. “It’s free so there is really no chance not to go.”

To reserve a spot at one of the performances, go to the Van Andel Arena Box Office for tickets. For a small fee, print-off tickets are also online at ticketmaster.com.

Following the performances in Grand Rapids, the U.S. Army Military District of Washington will travel to Pittsburgh, Pa., and finish in Highland Heights, Ky.

Parker encouraged GVSU students to come out and see the show.

“I promise if the students come they will not be disappointed,” she said.

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