Pigeon Forge, UT Join to Honor Veterans

KNOXVILLE — Former presidential candidate Robert Dole, Nobel Prize-winning human rights activist Elie Wiesel and widely known historian Stephen Ambrose are on the program of “Celebrate Freedom,” a 15-day festival in Pigeon Forge that starts Nov. 8.

The city of Pigeon Forge and the University of Tennessee Center for the Study of War and Society are holding a series of events to honor American veterans and educate the public about their role in the war.

“The city and UT have worked together to spotlight the accomplishments and sacrifices of the men and women who served in the war,” said Dr. Kurt Piehler, center director and a faculty member in the UT history department.

Ambrose, a historian and author of several noted books on the war, will offer the keynote address on Nov. 9 for the first of a daily series of symposia, which feature the reminiscences of veterans and ruminations of historians. It will be held in the Louise Mandrell Theater.

Ambrose, a retired history professor at the University of New Orleans, wrote the best-selling “D-Day June 6, 1944: the Climactic Battle of World War II,” as well as “Band of Brothers” and “Citizen Soldiers.”

Dole will address a symposium on Nov. 13 at 1 p.m. The former U.S. senator was disabled by wounds he received during the war.

The festival ends Nov. 22 with an address by Wiesel, a survivor of the Holocaust and a winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to promote peace and defend human rights. Wiesel will speak at the Grand Hotel Convention Center.

The symposia, scheduled daily for the duration of the celebration, will be free to the public but will require tickets for admission. The tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis the day of each symposium. The Dole speech requires a $25 donation to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Pigeon Forge has scheduled a number of related events, including a Veterans Day parade on the Parkway that will feature a flyby of vintage military war planes. The schedule includes military band concerts, a military book fair and various historical displays.

Other speakers include Thomas Childers, a UT graduate and native of Cleveland, Tenn., who will speak on his book, “The Wings of Morning”; Capt. Edward Beach, who wrote “Run Silent, Run Deep”; Col. Robert Morgan, commander of the bomber “Memphis Belle”; and Samuel Hynes, author of “Flights of Passage.”