The two-day Army Heritage Days at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center annually draws thousands to the Middlesex Township facility as people across the country celebrate Armed Forces Day.
This past Saturday, the free event kicked off the activities with a roaring start with an armored vehicle obstacle course that drew hundreds of eager spectators.
“It’s looking like we’re having good weather and we’re really excited,” said Col. Pete Crean, director of AHEC, said on Saturday morning. “People come because they’re fascinated by the military. The U.S. Army gets great support from the American public. I love it.”
Outreach Coordinator Lindsay Strehl said she expected that around 8,000 visitors will end up strolling the grounds by Sunday afternoon. Last year’s crowd totaled 6,000, but Strehl noted that a steady rain last year may have kept some away.
Privately-owned vehicles on display this weekend included an M4A3 Sherman Tank, an M18 Hellcat tank destroyer, a Vietnam-era M114 command and reconnaissance carrier, an M901 anti-tank missile vehicle and M109 Paladin self-propelled artillery.
“It’s absolutely awesome. Lots of people have been looking forward to seeing the tanks,” said Michelle Phelps, of Shermans Dale, whose husband, Richard Phelps, an AHEC employee, helped direct tanks to the obstacle course.
Garrett Sabol, 13, and Tom Taber, 11, of Boy Scout Troop 36 of Doylestown, also were part of Saturday’s tank crowd. “It’s cool. It’s really interesting to see how they run and everything,” Garrett said.
“I think it’s pretty interesting. (The tanks) are in good shape for being in World War II and not being all busted up,” Tom added.
Nearby, the mile-long Army Heritage Trail was buzzing with the annual living history event with around 400 re-enactors from a number of eras, including French and Indian War and the Vietnam War.
Brothers Tom Pucci, of Easton, and David Pucci, of Kunkletown, returned as World War II re-enactors after attending last year’s event for the first time.
“We enjoyed the guys we met here last year,” Tom Pucci said.
“We’re big World War II buffs,” David Pucci added. “Our father, Thomas Pucci, is a veteran. He was with the 4th Cavalry Group of the Vienna Command. After that, he was a Four Power MP. He, a Russian, and an Englishman rode around in a Jeep through occupied zones.”
Zach Titus, of Lancaster, and Matt Adkins, of Hagerstown, Maryland, were dressed in period uniforms representing the 7th Tennessee Cavalry Battalion from the American Civil War. Both said they “liked getting out and teaching people things about history they never knew before.”
Joseph Myers, of York, and Tom Myers, of Sugarloaf, Pennsylvania, went back even further in time with their period uniforms. They represented the original Massachusetts Militia of the early 1600s that is still in existence today, they said.