Athletes shined while wearing different uniforms
By Greg Ford
The Fourth of July weekend is a time to honor our nation’s birth. It also provides a chance to reflect on the history that has transpired on this continent since the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Texas and the states that border it are not barren when it comes to supplying significant events to that timeline, with each providing a glimpse into a different era.
These sites not only are educational, but also provide for families, or those interested in history, to get outside for some exercise as they walk around these monuments to our nation’s past.
While the story of the Alamo has been told and retold countless times in movies and on television, it is the short conflict a little less than two months later at the San Jacinto River that decided Texas’ fate.
There, an outnumbered force of Lone Star rebels (about 900) under the leadership of Sam Houston, surprised and defeated Santa Anna’s army of about 1,200 in less than 20 minutes. The Mexican army encamped there was fresh off a victory at the Alamo, where it wiped out the defenders, as well as having participated in a murderous massacre at Goliad. Those two incidents served as rallying cries for Houston and his army as it launched the surprise attack on April 21, 1836.
Visitors to the site will view the 501-foot monument dedicated to the battle. They also can visit the museum, which contains artifacts from that battle, including uniforms and armaments that will help persons understand the timeline during which Texas went from being a state with Mexico to its own independent republic.
Located close by is the USS Texas, a battleship that saw action in World War I and II. In the latter, the Texas took part in the invasion of North Africa and D-Day.
West of San Jacinto, specifically to the town of Fredericksburg, one can visit the National Museum of the Pacific War, which is dedicated to those who served in that theatre during WWII. The museum is located in the hometown of Adm. Chester Nimitz, who oversaw United States Naval operations against the Japanese.
The museum will have a Pacific combat reenactment July 5-6 that will feature uniformed actors, guns, tanks and flamethrower.
The facility also is home to the Adm. Nimitz Museum, one of three on the six-acre campus, the George H.W. Bush Gallery, which tells the story of the Pacific War, the Memorial Courtyard that honors those who fought in the Pacific, the Japanese Garden of Peace and the Plaza of Presidents, which is dedicated to the 10 Commanders-in-Chiefs who served during WWII.
That includes plaques honoring Franklin Roosevelt, who led the nation through the war before passing away in 1944, and Harry S. Truman, who picked up the mantle and was in office when Germany and Japan surrendered.
In the southern part of the state, along the banks of the Mississippi River and next to the Gulf of Mexico, is the great city of New Orleans, birthplace of jazz and home to Bourbon Street, where, literally, anything goes.
However, the Big Easy is also a place that helped forge the United States into one nation and turned Andrew Jackson into an American hero.
It was there at the Chalmette Battlefield on Jan. 8, 1815, that Jackson’s army, aligned with men loyal to pirate Jean Lafitte, beat back the invading British army in what became known as the Battle of New Orleans, an event that has mythologized in various media, including a hit song in the 1950s.
The battle itself took place after the treaty signing that ended the War of 1812. However, neither the British nor American combatants were aware of this that day, and had the British succeeded in seizing New Orleans, some argue, they might have demanded a treaty renegotiation.
The battlefield and Chalmette National Cemetery (Chalmette) Visitor Center and entrance gates are open Tuesday through Saturday, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Entrance gates also open at 9:30 a.m. and will close at 3:30 p.m. Sunday through Monday and on federal holidays other than Memorial Day and Veterans Day. The battlefield and national cemetery completely closed on Mardi Gras.
Just north of Texas, in Oklahoma City, is a monument to the victims of domestic terrorism.
There, at the Alfred P. Murrah Building on April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh exploded a device that murdered 168 people and injured nearly 700.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum is dedicated to all those killed and to the survivors of that horrific day. The site has an outdoor memorial, which was dedicated by President Bill Clinton five years to the day of the attack, and a memorial museum, which was dedicated by President George W. Bush on Feb. 19, 2001.
The outdoor memorial is open year-round, 24 hours a day and charges no admission. The memorial museum is open Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., except on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas and New Year’s Day.
If you like most of us you were led to believe that no significant Civil War battles took place west of the Mississippi River. Nothing could by further from the truth.
On Dec. 7, 1862, Union and Confederate forces met at Prairie Grove in the northwest section of Arkansas. It was there that Union forces beat back a Confederate attempt to invade Missouri, one of four slave states that did not secede, with the fighting resulting in 2,700 casualties.
The battlefield is one of better-preserved ones in the United States, and on it visitors can traverse the grounds and view a site where the conflict took place. The park has a one-mile walking trail and a five-mile driving tour.
The site, which also contains historic homes and a museum, is open daily 8 a.m. to one hour before sunset, except on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Head into the Land of Enchantment to learn some history of the romantic Wild West, which was not so romantic, and often quite bloody.
Specifically, there is the town of Lincoln, which was central to the Lincoln County Wars. It was there, at the town courthouse and jail, that Billy the Kid made an infamous escape during which he murdered two deputies.
The Kid, known at the time as William Bonney, is said to have been born William Henry McCarty, Jr. Sheriff Pat Garrett, who once was his partner during the Lincoln County conflicts, reportedly later gunned him down.
Besides being home to the town that is its namesake, Lincoln County also boasts the Sacred Mountain of the Apache, the Sierra Blanca mountain range as well as other historic sites and natural beauty.