Local World War II Vet Attends Museum Opening
Two days before Veterans Day, Alonzo B. Campbell entered The Pilot newspaper office with a cane clutched in his right hand, rolled- up program held tightly in his left, and a smile on his face.
The gently used program commemorated the "Experience the Victory" grand opening ceremony Nov. 4-8 at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
Campbell, 84, of Southern Pines, beamed with pride when he placed the program on the desk, and announced he'd just returned from New Orleans.
The smile was a telling sign that the event was plenty worth attending.
"It was wonderful," Campbell said. "It is the most wonderful place I've seen for World War II veterans."
The multi-day event featured the opening of three new museum venues, the Solomon Victory Theater, the Stage Door Canteen and the American Sector.
Tom Brokaw and Tom Hanks, Patricia Heaton and Mickey Rooney were among the nearly 4,000 who attended the grand opening festivities, including nearly 400 World War II veterans. The opening was part of the ongoing expansion of the Museum.
The centerpiece of the 70,000-square-foot expansion, the Solomon Victory Theater, will screen the 4-D cinematic production Beyond All Boundaries, a 35-minute immersive journey from Pearl Harbor to VJ Day featuring breathtaking effects, rare archival footage and images, CGI animation and multilayered projection.
Seats rumble as Tiger tanks storm across the deserts of North Africa and snow gently falls in the forests of the Ardennes on the eve of the Battle of the Bulge. It is an experience that is emotional, visceral, engaging and, most importantly, historically accurate.
Audiences at the new Stage Door Canteen will be transported back to the Home Front, a time when music and entertainment boosted the nation's morale. The mood is set with sleek hardwood floors, dramatic lighting and oversized, heart-warming black and white photos of iconic World War II entertainers, such as Rita Hayworth and Clark Gable. A state-of-the-art sound system and stage will be used to feature music of the era and an exclusive live show, Let Freedom Swing.
The National World War II Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world -- why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today.
Dedicated in 2000 as the National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America's National World War II Museum, it celebrates the American spirit -- the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifice of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and the home front
For more about the museum or the ceremonies, go online to www.nationalww2museum.org.
Campbell, a veteran of the invasion of Normandy, served in the Army from 1943 to 1946. He attended the event thanks to the kindness of an area physician, Dr. Robert Albrecht.
Albrecht is a native of New Orleans. His sister works at the museum, and Albrecht learned about the planned program during a recent trip to Louisiana.
"On my way back, his name popped in my head," Albrecht said of Campbell. "With all he's been through, to me it was a no-brainer. I'd like to think that anybody in this situation would have done the same thing."
Campbell, who has been a patient of Albrecht's for about four years, had told his doctor that he was a World War II veteran during a casual conversation some years back. Albrecht remembered, and his gesture left Campbell nearly speechless.
"He sprung it on me as a surprise," Campbell said of the trip. "I said, 'I'd love to go.'"
Campbell, who came to Moore County in the early 1940s from South Carolina, is one of 11 siblings. He is the youngest boy, and the oldest of two survivors. He worked several jobs, including performing farm labor and working in the hotels, he said.
Campbell said he thought he was the only World War II veteran from Moore County to attend the event.
The best part of the trip, he said, was the opportunity to meet fellow veterans with shared experiences and reliving the World War II experiences.
"I made some new friends, and I got to meet Dr. Albrecht's sister," Campbell said.
Albrecht expressed his gratitude to Campbell and all the other World War II veterans, and all the other service men and women, for what they do for this country.
"I just wish there were a few more I could have sent with him," Albrecht said.
Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 693-2484 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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