“Military Appreciation Days” coordinators for the city of Myrtle Beach’s annual Memorial Day weekend parade stay on their toes and really, a roll, especially for lining up grand marshals who have balanced deployments with dancing on reality TV – in that order.
For the 2017 parade, 10:30 a.m. Saturday on Farrow Parkway at The Market Common in Myrtle Beach, Army National Guard Spc. Alek Skarlatos of Oregon is the special guest. In August 2015, with two longtime friends, Anthony Sadler and Spencer Stone, he helped disarm a gunman on a train going from Amsterdam, Netherlands, through Brussels, Belgium, to Paris. That act of bravery led to honors such as the United States Army Soldier’s Medal and France’s Legion of Honour.
That autumn, Skarlatos also made the finals of the 21st season of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” finishing in third place with his dancing pro partner, Lindsay Arnold. The Myrtle Beach parade grand marshal last year, Noah Galloway, a retired sergeant from two Army deployments in Operation Iraqi Freedom, also notched a top-three finish on the TV series, in spring 2015 with Sharna Burgess. The parade marshal that year was J.R. Martinez, an Army veteran who was wounded in Iraq; he and Karina Smirnoff won the show’s Mirror Ball Trophy in 2011.
Reached by phone this month, Skarlatos, whose most recent tour of duty took him to Afghanistan, talked leisurely at home, sounding modest and content like a go-to, trusted next-door neighbor, exactly as cool, calm and collected as he appears in TV interviews. He said he’s also headed back to Europe this summer for filming a production about the aforementioned train incident, with the director, Clint Eastwood.
Q: You’ve always struck me as someone so humble, low key, and absorbing of an atmosphere. How does military service, and taking part in the war on terror, only strengthen your resolve and dedication as a person, and seeing the best and worst of humanity, whether through fate or call of duty?
A: To be part of an organization like the military, especially in the Army National Guard, you’re hanging out with people of a like mind. It’s good to associate with people who think like you, especially when it comes to adversity, because ... together, it helps you to go through pretty much anything, with people who have your back.
Q: How has the meaning and heartfelt touch of Memorial Day been changed since you were a child by what you have seen around the world as an adult?
A: When you actually grow older, and know people who are in the military and who have given their lives for this country, it means a lot more for you. Within that context, being in the military is a lot more personal.
Q: With your long run on “Dancing with the Stars,” how fun or refreshing was it to be known for some other fame besides your life-saving feat with two friends on that French train?
A: It was kind of strange, because most people became familiar with me from “Dancing with the Stars,” so it was more like the other way around.
Q: For us the viewers, just how much of a whirlwind or adrenaline rush was that switch-up week of partners, going from Lindsay Arnold to Emma Slater, then back to Lindsay, and later on a nationwide tour in an ensemble?
A: The whole thing was a lot of fun. I just really enjoyed every day, every minute of it. Lindsay and Emma are excellent people. I could not have wished for better partners.
Q: That one blooper in rehearsals with Emma: Did it really break your nose, and how quick was the recovery and rebound?
A: My nose didn’t actually bleed, which was strange, but it did change the shape of it. I was fine after just a couple of days. It was just strange, how it didn’t bleed or anything like that.
Q: With your joining our area’s annual “Military Appreciation Days” this year on Memorial Day weekend, how does seeing such community support around service personnel remind you how our thanks for such individuals, of all ages, resonates with the heartbeat of our country, and worldwide?
A: It’s very important that the community come around to show support for its service members. They need support more than anybody, especially when they come home from deployments. It’s also good for the community to know the people who help work in defense of the nation, and it’s great to come together for an opportunity to congratulate such people on making it back.
Contact Steve Palisin at 843-444-1764.
Ninth annual ‘Military Appreciation Days’
More details at 843-918-1014 or www.militaryappreciationdays.com:
▪ “Military Appreciation Days Dinner/Dance,” with Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 925 Grand Strand – and music by Carolina Midnight, 7:30-10:30 p.m. – 6 p.m. Thursday at Myrtle Beach Convention Center, at Oak Street and 21st Avenue North. $30, and free parking (savings of $5). This also is the welcome party for wounded service personnel being brought to Myrtle Beach by Scents for Soldiers. 843-492-0005, 843-457-7232 or www.vva925.org.
▪ Memorial Day weekend parade, 10:30 a.m. Saturday on Farrow Parkway, at The Market Common in Myrtle Beach, with Army National Guard Spc. Alek Skarlatos of Oregon – recipient of United States Army Soldier’s Medal and France’s Legion of Honour for his role in helping disarm a gunman on a Paris-bound train, and third-place finisher with Lindsay Arnold on 21st season of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” – as grand marshal.
▪ Family Picnic – with activities, military exhibits, and music by Andrew Thielen Big Band – noon-2 p.m. Saturday in Myrtle Beach’s Valor Memorial Garden, at The Market Common.
▪ Memorial Day Veterans March with Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, 9 a.m. May 29, south on Myrtle Beach’s Ocean Boulevard between 16th and Ninth avenues North, with brief ceremony at former Pavilion site.
▪ Memorial Day ceremony, 11 a.m. May 29 – after mini-concert at 10:30 a.m. by Festive Brass of Myrtle Beach – at Myrtle Beach Convention Center Plaza, on Oak Street at 21st Avenue North.
▪ Memorial Day service by Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 925, 11 a.m. May 29 at Old Horry County Courthouse, 1201 Third Ave., Conway. 843-492-0005 or www.vva925.org.
▪ Memorial Day tribute film, 2 p.m. May 29 at Grand 14 Cinema, at The Market Common. 843-282-0550.
Other Memorial Day weekend events
▪ Memorial Day services by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10420 of Murrells Inlet – Placing of flags by veterans and preschoolers, 9 a.m. Friday in Belin Memorial United Methodist Church cemetery, 4182 U.S. 17 Business, Murrells Inlet. Formal service, noon Monday at post, 4359 U.S. 17 Bypass S., Murrells Inlet, with Curtis Bostic, a Marine Corps Desert Storm veteran from Charleston, as guest speaker; Ed Piotrowski, chief meteorologist for WPDE-TV 15, as master of ceremonies; Battle Cross ceremony by Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association; and music by Pawleys Island Concert Band. 843-651-6900.
▪ “Memorial Saturday Music & Cookout,” noon-5 p.m. Saturday, at La Belle Amie Vineyard, 1120 St. Joseph Road, Little River, just west of North Myrtle Beach Middle School. $5. Also, bring two canned/dry good items for food bank, for $3 off admission. 843-399-9463 or labelleamie.com.
▪ Sunday in Surfside Beach: “Memorial Day Golf Cart Parade,” 1 p.m., south on Ocean Boulevard, from 16th Avenue North to Melody Lane (register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org); and “Memorial Day Cookout,” 4-8 p.m. at Surfside and Yaupon drives, with music by Sea Cruz. Each free. 843-650-9548 or surfsidebeach.org.
▪ Memorial Day observance, 10 a.m. May 29 at Georgetown Veterans Memorial Wall, 715 Church St. (U.S. 17), Georgetown, between American Legion Post 114 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6444. Also, members of both posts will place U.S. flags on graves of veterans in Pennyroyal and Elmwood cemeteries at 8 a.m. Thursday; volunteers welcome. 843-546-3745.
▪ Memorial Day service with Little River Elks Lodge 2840 and other groups, including music by Myrtle Beach Regional Pipe Band, 11 a.m. May 29 at North Myrtle Beach Memorial Gardens, 65 E. S.C. 90, Little River, at U.S. 17, S.C. 9 and Nixon Crossroads. 843-249-2932.
▪ “Letters Home” 90-minute play, about real-life connections to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 2 and 7 p.m. May 29 – each with question-and-answer session with cast afterward – aboard USS Yorktown, at Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum 40 Patriots Point Road, Mount Pleasant. Free with reservations at www.patriotspoint.org/news-and-events/event/letters-home-play-memorial-day/. Parking $5. 843-884-2727.
▪ “The Moveable Feast,” with Walt Gragg (waltgragg.com), Army/Cold War veteran and author of military thriller novel “The Red Line,” 11 a.m.-1 p.m. June 2 at Hot Fish Club, 4911 U.S. 17 Business, Murrells Inlet. $30, and with $5 cash rebate with purchase of book on site. Reservations at 843-235-9600 or classatpawleys.com.
ETV airs ‘National Memorial Day Concert’
WHAT, WHEN AND WHERE: 28th annual “National Memorial Day Concert,” live from U.S. Capitol west lawn in Washington, D.C., 8-9:30 p.m. Sunday, with replay right afterward, 9:30-11 p.m., on PBS: including ETV outlets WHMC-TV 23 of Conway and WITV-TV 7 of Charleston, and WUNJ-TV 39 of Wilmington, N.C. (www.pbs.org/memorialdayconcert)
WITH: Actors Joe Mantegna and Laurence Fishburne (filling in for Gary Sinise), co-hosts, with singers Renee Fleming, Scotty McCreery, John Ondrasik/Five for Fighting, Ronan Tynan, and Russell Watson; singer/actresses Auli’i Cravalho and Vanessa Williams; actors Christopher Jackson, Ana Ortiz, and John Ortiz; the National Symphony Orchestra with Maestro Jack Everly, as well as the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, U.S. Army Chorus, The Soldiers’ Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band, U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters, and U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants.