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Center to celebrate military

The Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts will salute the military in September with a full range of presentations honoring our nation’s armed forces and kicking off the center’s 10th season.

Local hero, Col. Fred V. Cherry, who died earlier this year, will be honored with an exhibit of his memorabilia, including plaques and awards.

Suffolk Center Executive Director Jackie Cherry said the center decided to honor the military-heavy community it serves in its 10th anniversary season.

“It was about time we did something,” she said. All of the planned events are free.

The centerpiece is the Vietnam Combat Art Exhibit, which will be on display Sept. 8-30.

“It will be an emotional exhibit, but it really, really is amazing,” Jackie Cherry said. “It’s not been seen around here, and I hope people will take advantage of it.”

On the exhibit’s opening night, a grand opening with music by the TRADOC Ceremonial Band will take place beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Speaking that evening will be Porter Halyburton, who befriended Col. Cherry while the two were in a prisoner-of-war camp in Vietnam.

The Vietnamese placed Halyburton and Cherry together under the mistaken belief that racial friction would break them. Cherry was black, and Halyburton was a white man from North Carolina.

“It ended up they were best friends,” Jackie Cherry said.

A book called “Two Souls Indivisible” was written about their friendship, and Halyburton will be able to sign copies. Several of Col. Cherry’s children will also be in attendance.

“It should be a festive evening,” Jackie Cherry said.

The following Thursday, Sept. 15, retired U.S. Navy Adm. William E. Gortney will speak at 7 p.m. During his 39-year career, Gortney commanded at every level in the Navy and was recognized with multiple awards.

On Sept. 22 at 7 p.m., “Thao’s Library” will be the featured film. The heart-touching movie inspired by a young Vietnamese survivor will be followed by a question-and-answer session with the film’s director of photography, Stephen Katz.

A family-friendly movie will also join in the celebration of military heroes. “Big Hero 6” will play at the center at 2 p.m. Sept. 10.