Saturday marks the 38th annual observance of Armed Forces Day, established by President Harry S. Truman in 1950 to honor the various branches of the U.S. military.
In Southern California, there are a number of museums, commemorative displays, collections of memorabilia and even regularly scheduled re-enactments of historic battles that are reminders to us of the soldiers who served our country, from the Revolutionary War to the present.
Fort Tejon State Historic Park, P.O. Box 895, Lebec, (805) 248-6692. Located 3 1/2 miles north of Lebec and about 70 miles north of Los Angeles on Interstate 5, Fort Tejon was a U.S. Army Dragoon post from 1854 to 1864 and the terminus of the U.S. Camel Corps, which hauled supplies from San Antonio, Texas. Today, you can tour the restored fort and a museum of artifacts in the park any day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. On the first Sunday of each month, the park presents "Living History Day," when volunteers dress as dragoons and lead tours throughout the day. But the real "action" takes place the third weekend of every month between April and October; that's when you can watch military demonstrations (in Civil War uniforms) Saturdays from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. and the re-enactment of a Civil War battle Sundays at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. The park is open daily, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; the buildings are open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $1 for adults, 50 cents for ages 6 to 17; children 5 and under admitted free. (On battle days, adults pay $2.)
Civil Engineer Corps/Seabee Museum, Naval Construction Battalion Center, Port Hueneme, (805) 982-5163. This large museum was established in 1947 as a lasting monument to the history and spirit of the Seabees and the Naval Civil Engineer Corps. You'll see many uniforms, weapons, pieces of machinery and models of equipment; you can also view battle scenes and arts and crafts by or about the Civil Engineer Corps and the Navy Seabees. Also on display are items relating to the customs and cultures of the various countries and islands where Seabees have served. You can obtain a visitor's pass at Port Hueneme's Sunkist Street Gate. The museum is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday, 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. It is closed on holidays. Admission is free.
Forest Lawn Memorial Park, 6300 Forest Lawn Drive, Hollywood, (213) 254-3131. Revolutionary War memorabilia, displayed in the park's Hall of Liberty, include a replica of the Liberty Bell and facsimiles of Revolutionary War documents, plus paintings, uniform displays and a video presentation of "The Birth of Liberty." Individuals or small groups may view the facilities and the film at any time during operating hours; large groups should make reservations. The Hall of Liberty is open daily, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Heritage Park, 1918 N. Rosemead Blvd., El Monte, (818) 442-1776. Curator Don Michelson, who served as a quartermaster in the Army during World War II, oversees this collection of military equipment and memorabilia, the largest on the West Coast.
Located on 7 1/2 acres within the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, Heritage Park displays more than 100 exhibits, ranging from ship propellers and radar screens to cannons, jeeps, trucks and tanks. A set from the "M.A.S.H." television series will be added this summer. Hours are Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $2 for ages 18 and up, $1 for ages 12-17, 50 cents for ages 7-15. Admission for children 6 and under is free.
Museum of World Wars and Military History, 7884 La Palma Ave., Buena Park, (714) 952-1776. Curator Ron Lane, a retired Air Force major, has been collecting memorabilia since 1945 and claims to have the largest privately owned military museum in the country. His building is filled with uniforms, medals, flags, photos, weapons and other artifacts from the Revolutionary War through after World War II. The museum is open daily, except holidays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $1 for adults, 50 cents for ages 5-12; no charge for children under 5.
March Field Museum, March Air Force Base, Riverside, (714) 655-3725. Exhibits showing the evolution of air power include bombers, helicopters, fighters and a U-2 spy plane. The museum also provides a shuttle to the flight line for viewing aircraft weekdays at 1:15 p.m., weekends at 2 p.m. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, noon to 4 p.m. weekends. Admission is free; passes are issued by the visitors' center at the main gate.