Fortunately, one of their stops is in Jackson. Sponsored by Harley-Davidson, the Trail of Honor is almost right in our backyard.
We went not knowing what to expect really. But we knew with all the Army played in our house and all the camo worn in our family, somebody (namely Gogurt of course) would enjoy this look back at our military's history.
Another reason we were going is for Brad to ride in a Huey. Unlike myself, my husband and children tend to enjoy their feet off the ground, not me, I prefer solid terra firma underneath my feet! So off we went, to get Brad a flight and along the way figure out what this Trail was all about.
We parked in a parking lot a couple of miles away and was shuttled to the Harley-Davidson store. We were let off at the front door. When we entered the store we browsed by each table, picking up free Mississippi magnets, coloring books, and various other items they were giving away. There were veterans there telling their stories and at one table there was a light machine gun you could pick up and hold. The boys were drawn to the tables with guns and artillery, especially the ones they could actually handle. I was always sure to point out the "Do Not Touch" signs on a few tables right as they would be reaching for it. Please, please do not pick up and then drop an original Civil War gun-thing. Please, please.
After seeing the inside, we went out the back door and started on the Trail. Well, we actually went the wrong way and was beginning at the end. I overheard a worker-guy say something about this being the end of the trail and we asked where the beginning was. So we had to backtrack and walk back to where we were. None of us had seen the sign and arrow, "Start Trail Here." We saw it this time, and we started the trail.
The very first thing was a turkey shoot. For $10 you can shoot a BB gun at a target. Everyone who shoots gets a free flag. A big one! You can choose between a Mississippi flag or a US flag.
Right down from there started the French and Indian War. You could stop and talk to him, in character, and he would tell you about this war, his weapons, and their living conditions. Walk on from there and you will see another re-enactment from another war, and so on and so on. The trail winds through the woods and it takes about 2 hours if you stop and see everything and hear all the stories. You will hear cannons going off, pistols being shot, and at times you actually feel like you are walking through a different time.
In addition to the trail, they have exhibitions going on in the front of the building throughout the day. We saw the attack boat from the Special Boat Team 22. They shot all their guns and that was the loudest thing I had ever heard in my life. I can't imaging being on the water seeing them coming toward me. I would surrender in a millisecond!
There was a parachute demonstration that was really amazing - the guys jumped out of a plane, had red smoke shooting out of their packs, flags waving, going in and out of sight, then all landing within a 10 feet radius of each other. How do they do that?
After seeing the Boat demonstration, we entered the Trail where we had left off to finish up the Trail before getting Brad's Huey ride. We saw the Vietnam display, which was by far the best in my opinion (and yes, I am a proud daughter of a Vietnam Vet). The traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall was touching to say the least. We saw Desert Storm and the current day battles in Iraq and Afghanistan. We emerged from the Trail with one excited dude ready to climb aboard the Huey.
When we topped the hill, we saw no helicopters however. Just lots of horses. Yes, horses. They were getting ready for a Cavalry demonstration and the helicopters were gone. Uh-oh.
Brad literally ran, well, almost ran, to the Sky Soldiers table to get more information. They were gone as well. Nothing. Brad was dejected and went to get in line to catch our shuttle. I went inside to ask a few questions.
Earlier, someone had said the helicopter rides were only Saturday and Sunday. We were there on Sunday. Someone else said they would be doing helicopter rides on Monday. I needed to know for sure. Someone inside told me yes, they would be doing helicopter rides the next day. After making him promise, almost in blood, that if we made the trip back out there just for a helicopter ride, that my husband would indeed get a helicopter ride. Yes, the helicopter would be there.
The next morning we called just in case. Yes, the helicopter was indeed there so we headed out one more time. Parked in the parking lot, rode the shuttle, except this time when they let us out at the front door, we weren't allowed in. They were preparing for the hundreds and hundreds of motorcyclists who were about to arrive. Oh, wow, perfect timing! We sat on the hillside (after signing Brad up for a Huey ride of course) and watched the procession of motorcycles come in. I've never seen or heard that many motorcycles in one place. It was quite a sight! Brad couldn't get his ride until all the motorcycles arrived because the helicopters were escorting them.
After that was all over, Brad finally got to ride in the Huey. He said it was amazing and well worth the wait/second trip - I'll take his word for it.
We left knowing that this would be an annual tradition for our family. And if you've never checked it out, I can guarantee you it will be well worth your time.
Here are some pictures from our day(s) on the Trail:
(This is an Apache...apparently a very rare helicopter to see in person. My boys almost wet their pants when they saw this flying in and landing. I overheard someone say if it had been raining anywhere in the world that day, the Apache couldn't have come. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but it is a very, very cool piece of machinery to see up close. The pilot talked to Gogurt. His advice for flying one of these one day? Make good grades!)