The Veterans Day celebration at the National World I Museum and Memorial starts soaring at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday when a parachute team featuring veterans from ages 28 to 96 descend to the North Lawn.
The “Legacy Jump” begins a day that will include a free, socially-distant, outdoor keynote address by Bob Kendrick of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum at 10 a.m. at the Memorial courtyard and special readings on the topic of resiliency.
Matt Naylor, president and CEO of the museum, said that while the Covid pandemic prompted his institution to celebrate Memorial Day virtually online, that’s not the case for Veterans Day.
“We wanted to give people an opportunity to gather but with the necessary precautions although the event will about half have the length that would be normally the case,” he said.
The readings will be done by Mayor Quinton Lucas and Specialist Calesta Ahola, a soldier based at Fort Leavenworth. It will include letters written by World War I troops.
At 11 a.m., the Cars 4 Heroes organization will give away 11 vehicles to veterans. There will then be a Walk of Honor ceremony at 2 p.m. followed by performances from the Kansas City Symphony in its Mobile Music Box from 3- to 5 p.m.
The Legacy Jump is organized by Ryan “Birdman” Parott, a decorated Navy SEAL veteran and extreme sports enthusiast. The early morning jump will include veterans from World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq War.
Two of the jumpers are father and son.
Peter Bielskis, the oldest parachutists, was an Army Air Corps staff sergeant and served as a gunner aboard a B-17 bomber during World War II. His son, Dennis, served as a sergeant with the 11th Armored Cavalry in Vietnam. Both live in Detroit.
Following the team skydive, Parrot will do a BASE jump from the top of the 217-foot Liberty Memorial tower.
“We’re excited to host this special Legacy Jump on Veterans Day,” Naylor said in a statement. “We are proud to honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our country.”
The Museum and Memorial will be offering free admission to veterans and active duty military personnel through Sunday. General admission for the public will be half price on Veterans Day.
Naylor said the World War I Museum and Memorial, like many institutions, has struggled with attendance because of Covid. The museum reopened in June, and its October attendance was about 42 percent of October 2019.
“It’s been gradually trending up,’ he said. “It does give people more space to visit our galleries. It’s a safe place.”
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