Community, Local, Military, Park Forest

Park Forest Veterans Day Celebration Takes Flight in a Huey

Huey helicopter landing
The landing of a Huey helicopter in Central Park was a highlight of the Veterans Day program. (Photo John Hudzik)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Park Forest held its annual Veterans Day celebration on Thursday, November 10, with a program in Freedom Hall followed by a Huey helicopter landing in Central Park.

Village Manager Tom Mick, a Marine veteran, coordinated the event, which included a video greeting from Senator Tammy Duckworth discussing the importance of remembering the sacrifices that veterans have made to keep the country safe through the years.

Park Forest Mayor Jonathon Vanderbilt delivered opening remarks and welcomed the audience to Freedom Hall. He mentioned the village’s Hometown Heroes banner program that pays tribute to Park Forest veterans and reminded everyone about the important function played by the Veteran’s Closet and Resource Center located in Downtown Park Forest.

Mick paid special tribute to Veterans Commissioner Kimberly Spivey, the only Park Forest resident to ever receive the Bronze Star. Spivey was seriously injured during her service in Afghanistan and was awarded the medal in recognition of her meritorious service during combat.

man cutting a cake with a sword
Assisted by Village Manager Tom Mick, Navy veteran Thomas Patrick McDonnell cuts a cake for the Marines’ 247th birthday. (Photo John Hudzik)

Veterans Commission Chair Barbara Jackson had the honor of recognizing 89-year-old Navy veteran Thomas Patrick McDonnell, a long-time Park Forest resident who served as a radioman from 1952 to 1960. McDonnell was brought on stage to cut a birthday cake celebrating the 247th birthday of the US Marine Corps.

army band on stage
The 144th Army Band performed at the Veterans Day celebration at Freedom Hall. (Photo John Hudzik)

The Freedom Hall program featured musical selections performed by the 144th Army Band, commanded by Chief Warrant Officer II Keith Shasteen.

The posting and retiring of the colors were performed by members of the Crete Monee High School Navy Junior ROTC.

helicopter in the sky
The Huey helicopter comes in for a landing at Central Park. (Photo John Hudzik)

After the Freedom Hall program, the crowd adjourned to Central Park, where they witnessed the landing of a Huey helicopter maintained and operated by the American Huey “369” organization from Peru, Indiana. This Vietnam-era helicopter provided a unique opportunity for Park Forest residents to get an up-close look at a craft that played a pivotal role in the country’s history.

large group of people surrounding helicopter on the ground
A crowd gathers around the Huey in Central Park. (Photo John Hudzik)

Residents were allowed to climb aboard the Huey for pictures and to experience what it might have been like for soldiers of that era. Honored guests of the day had the special opportunity to take a short flight above the village.

A Huey helicopter lands in Central Park on November 10, 2022, as part of the Veterans Day observation in Park Forest, Illinois. (Video John Hudzik)