Discovery Park of America Announces Details of the 2023 Military History and Armed Forces Symposium

Military History Symposium
Visitors gather around living historians at the 2022 Military History and Armed Forces Symposium. 

Discovery Park of America is hosting its annual Military History and Armed Forces Symposium on Friday, April 28, and Saturday, April 29.

The event will feature a variety of programs and interactive activities that explore the past, present and future of the American military. All active military service members, veterans and their guests will receive free admission to Discovery Park during both days of this event.

Sponsored by Dixie Gun Works, the Military History and Armed Forces Symposium features presentations from special guests, static and active military equipment, vehicle demonstrations and gallery talks. Guests will also experience historical interpreters and living historians throughout the museum and park.

Friday has been planned with students in mind and will include a keynote by Cpl. John Henley. Born and raised in Boise City, Oklahoma, Henley entered the United States Marine Corps in 1969 and trained as a field artilleryman stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, with the 2nd Marine Division. In June 1970, Henley was attached to Battalion Landing Team 2/9 3rd Marine Division and served in Vietnam, Okinawa and the Philippines before he was honorably discharged in 1971. He went on to graduate from the Sunset School of Biblical Studies and served as a full-time minister for 42 years until his retirement in 2019.

A VIP reception will be held on Friday night to bring awareness to resources available to all military personnel. Operation Song, an organization of songwriters who work with veterans and active-duty military to tell their stories through song, will provide entertainment. The VIP reception is open to former and current members of the armed forces plus a guest.

Saturday’s keynote will be provided by Lt. Col. Bernard House, professor of military science at the University of Tennessee at Martin. House is also the overall leader of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps battalion at both Murray State University and the University of Tennessee at Martin. A native of Lexa, Arkansas, House was commissioned into the United States Army in 1997 from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, where he graduated as a Distinguished Military Graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Management and Leadership from Webster University.

Lt. Col. Ron Powell (Ret.) will provide educational programming in the upper military gallery on Friday and Saturday. Serving as an Army chaplain for 34 years, Powell gives presentations about the history of chaplains in the military from the Civil War through the present.

Saturday will also feature a panel discussion led by Stefan Maupin and special guest Cindy Kent, author of “Better Men: Alpha Upsilon in Vietnam.” The panel will include some of the men who are highlighted in Kent’s compilation of stories from 14 Vietnam veterans. Before they became brothers of war, they were brothers at the University of Tennessee at Martin’s Alpha Upsilon chapter of Alpha Gamma Rho, the national agriculture fraternity.

“Our education team has put together two days of insightful and experiential activities that highlight the past, present and future of our nation’s armed forces,” said Emalee Buttrey, Ph.D., director of education, programming and museum experience at the museum. “For guests passionate about history and the military, this event is going to provide a lot to discover.”

Both days of the 2023 Military History and Armed Forces Symposium will also feature reenactment groups, including the 1st Infantry Division WWII Reenactors, the 52nd Regimental String Band and The Living Historians. Military equipment is on display on the grounds throughout the weekend.

A variety of military-related vendors will exhibit in Dino Hall, including the Veteran’s Museum of Halls, Tennessee, Irreverent Warriors, Special Ops Xcursions, Tennessee State Guard, Tennessee Army National Guard, UTM ROTC, Tennessee Department of Veterans Services and Wreaths Across America.

Attendees also can explore Discovery Park’s Military Gallery, which can be found on two levels of the museum. The lower level contains 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. Displays about the Civil War, World War I and World War II can be found on the entry-level along with an oral history theater that showcases stories shared by veterans.

All the programs, panel discussions and other events during the symposium are included with park admission or membership. All active military service members, veterans and their guests receive free admission on both days of the event. School group leaders wanting to request scholarships for student groups should email or call 731-885-5455. For a full list of events and biographies on special guests, visit


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