Military History and Armed Forces Symposium 2021

April 23 – 25, 2021

All active military personnel and veterans will receive free admission to Discovery Park during all three days of this event.

This three-day event features a variety of programs and interactive activities that will interest the entire family. Enjoy a weekend that explores the past, present and future of the military.

Sponsored by Union City Coca-Cola and Dixie Gun Works.

Download the poster.

Guests will experience:

  • Reenactors sharing stories from the history of the military
  • Military vehicles and equipment on display
  • A pop-up exhibit of portraits by early photographer Mathew Brady
  • Authors with books on military-related topics
  • Experts on a variety of topics relevant to the past, present and future of the military
  • Gallery talks with Discovery Park educators
  • Keynote presentation from Lt. Gen. John G. Castellaw, U.S.M.C. Retired
  • Live drone technology demonstrations
  • Members-only reception with Operation Song on Fri., April 23

Special guests include:

Lt. Gen. John G. Castellaw, U.S.M.C. Retired

Lt. Gen. Castellaw is a 36-year veteran of the Marine Corps, where he held several commands, including chief of staff for the United States Central Command during the Iraq War. Since retirement, Lt. Gen. Castellaw has served as an advising expert in matters of national security, with emphasis on climate change. Castellaw lives in Alamo, Tennessee and is the founder and CEO of Farmspace Systems, a company specializing in drone and aviation technology in agriculture.

Maj. Gen. William M. Maloan, Tennessee National Guard, Retired

Maj. Gen. William M. Maloan served as the Deputy Commander, Joint Force Headquarters, Tennessee Army National Guard since 2007, and retired in 2012. He currently serves as the Presiding Judge and Chancellor of the 27th Judicial District for Weakley and Obion Counties in Tennessee.

Cmdr. Leanne Braddock, U.S. Navy Retired

Cmdr. Braddock is a 24-year veteran of the U.S. Navy. Since retiring in 2004 and earning a Master of Science degree in counseling, has worked as a licensed martial and family therapist in Jackson, Tennessee. She will host a panel discussing the experiences of women in the modern military.

Col. Ardis Porter, U.S. Army Retired

Col. Porter is a retired Army serviceman who now serves as program director for Veterans Employed in Service Technology and Agriculture (VETSA.) Before retiring, Col. Porter held the title of deputy chief of staff for the United States Army Human Resources Command at Fort Knox in Kentucky. With over 30 years of experience in human resources, much of that time is the Army, he will discuss issues and prejudices facing service members in today’s armed forces.

Cynthia Kent, Author

Kent is a retiree of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, where she most recently served as the creative resources director. She is the author of “Better Men: Alpha Upsilon in Vietnam,” in which she sheds light on the comradery of 14 fraternity brothers from Alpha Gamma Rho’s Alpha Upsilon Chapter at the University of Tennessee at Martin who became brothers in service in Vietnam between 1964 and 1972. Kent holds a degree in psychology and a master of arts degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Tennessee.

Reenactor Groups

These groups will be at Discovery Park of America on Sat., April 24 and Sun., April 25 only. 

1st Infantry Division

The 1st Infantry Division reenactors are led by Matt Inman and based in Corinth, Mississippi. This group will display artifacts pertaining to World War II, Vietnam, the War of 1812 and the Spanish-American War. (Sat. and Sun. only)

7th Tennessee Dismounted Cavalry 

Join this group of American Civil War reenactors on the Great Lawn to learn about the lives of soldiers in the 7th Tennessee Dismounted Cavalry. (Sat. and Sun. only)

Ron Powell: Civil War Chaplain

Reenactor and interpreter Ron Powell will be in Dinosaur Hall sharing about the life and work of a Civil War chaplain. (Sat. and Sun. only)

Colonial Militia 

This group of reenactor will interpret the lives of militiamen in colonial America and express the political frustrations that led to the American Revolution. (Sat. and Sun. only)

Polish Partisans

Reenactors will explore the humanity and comradery of a nation fraught with terror and cruelty during one of humanity’s darkest hours – the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II. (Sat. and Sun. only)

Schedule of Events

Programs are subject to change.

Fri., April 23, 2021

All day (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.) Experience reenactors, military displays and equipment from the past, present and future, and hear stories from the Civil War, World War II, Vietnam, the War of 1812 and the Spanish-American War.

10:45 a.m. Gallery Talk with Gary Dudley: Civil War River Battles.

11:30 a.m. Gallery Talk with David Heathcott: Hiram Maxim and the Machine Gun.

1 p.m. Gallery Talk with Zach Rea: Mathew Brady, early photographer.

2 p.m. Women in the Military, panel led by Cmdr. Leanne Braddock, U.S. Navy Retired. Panelists include Cmdr. Becky Walthour, U.S. Coast Guard; Cmdr. Sheree T. Williams, U.S. Navy; Corp. Carrie Mercer, U.S. Marine Corps.

3 p.m. Gallery Talk with Gary Dudley: The WWII Homefront.

5 p.m. Members-only reception sponsored by Operation Song with a performance by members of Operation Song.

Sat., April 24, 2021

All day (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.) Experience reenactors, military displays and equipment from the past, present and future, and hear stories from the Civil War, World War II, Vietnam, the War of 1812 and the Spanish-American War.

10:45 a.m. Dr. David Coffey, professor of history at the University of Tennessee at Martin, will discuss his latest book, In Harm’s Way: A History of the American Military Experience.

11:30 a.m. Live Recording of “Reelfoot Froward: A West Tennessee Podcast” with host Scott Williams and Dr. Timothy Smith, contributor to the recent History Channel production, “Grant”

1 p.m. Minorities in the Military, panel led by Col. Ardis Porter, U.S. Army Retired. Panelists include Dr. Adam Wilson and Col. Howard Thompson, U.S. Army Retired.

2 p.m. Go There: A Call to Bring Invisible Soldiers of Vietnam into View, panel led by Cynthia Kent, author of “Better Men: Alpha Upsilon in Vietnam”
Book signing to follow. Panelists include David Kent, songwriter and representative from Operation Song; 1st Lt. Thomas Raines, Vietnam veteran; 1st Ly. Bill Powell, Vietnam veteran; and Col. Ed Bevill, U.S. Army retired Vietnam veteran.

Sun., April 25, 2021

All day (11 a.m. – 4 p.m.) Experience reenactors, military displays and equipment from the past, present and future, and hear stories from the Civil War, World War II, Vietnam, the War of 1812 and the Spanish-American War.

11:30 a.m. UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter landing near STEM Landing

12 p.m. Gallery Talk with Zach Rea: 320th African American Anti-Aircraft Barrage Balloon Battalion.

1 p.m. “Tennessee National Guard: From Kuwait to Capitol Hill” panel of National Guardsmen who were deployed to Kuwait and then to secure the Capitol in January 2021. Panel led by retired Maj. Gen. William M. Maloan, Tennessee National Guard.

2 p.m. Keynote: National Security in the Age of Climate Change, Lt. Gen. John G. Castellaw, USMC Retired

3 p.m. UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter takes off from STEM Landing

3 p.m. Gallery Talk with David Heathcott: American Vietnam POW Secret Codes.

Special Tours of The Military Gallery at Discovery Park

Included is a collection of military vehicles and weapons, as well as displays about the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War and our current military conflicts.

All programs associated with the event are included with park admission or membership.

Three new hotels are now open right next door to Discovery Park of America. For reservations or more information click here.