By Ms. Kellie Etheridge (IMCOM)May 26, 2009
Hooray for sunshine and hooray for heroes.
May 16 marked the fourth annual Hooray for Heroes celebration held in the lot between the Radcliff Wal-Mart and Stithton Baptist Church. The event and all its festivities are always on Armed Forces Day and honor men and women in uniform, whether they're with the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, law enforcement, firefighters, or emergency medical services.
The rain that greeted early-morning risers was pushed aside by Mother Nature so that the sun could shine and attendees at the daytime festival stayed dry and enjoyed their afternoon. On hand were static displays of vehicles from Fort Knox, including an M1A1 Abrams tank and a Stryker, inflatable amusements for kids, raffles, information booths, musical guests, and lots of free food.
The legendary Louisville musical group the Monarchs performed a version of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A.," which moved some members of the crowd to tears.
Later that evening, the festivities took on a more somber tone during a memorial ceremony inside Stithton Church.
WHAS-11 news anchorman Gary Roedemeier was one of the guest speakers and the host for the evening. Following the presentation of the flag by the North Hardin High School JROTC Color Guard, Roedemeier led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. He also spoke about his time serving in the Navy during the Vietnam War.
Post Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell was also a guest speaker for the evening, and he told the audience about the personal heroes that he had encountered during his life and expressed what an honor it was for him to call himself an American.
"There will never be a hero crisis in this country," he said.
Will Stolz, the co-founder and chairman of the event, was also humbled.
"(I am) proud to be surrounded by so many heroes," he said.
Stolz then welcomed the final guest speaker of the night, Patrick Henry Hughes of Louisville and his father, Patrick John Hughes.
"This is truly the proudest moment of my life," said John Hughes as his son prepared to perform on a piano for the crowd.
John told the audience that his dream of having a son who was the star on the football field at a well-known university were washed down the drain when he learned that his son Patrick had been born without eyes. Patrick was also born with the inability to fully straighten his arms and legs, which meant he would be unable to walk.
However, Patrick became a star on the football field at the University of Louisville-playing the trumpet with the marching band while being wheeled around the field by his dad.
The Hughes family members became national celebrities 18 months ago when they were selected to receive a new home constructed in Louisville by the crew of the hit TV show Extreme Makeover Home Edition.
He has a 3.9 grade point average and is preparing for his senior year at the university, but Saturday evening Patrick was focused on his four F's-faith, family, friends, and freedom-which he described to the audience. He then entertained the crowd by playing the piano with a Brooks and Dunn song followed by a rendition, ala Ray Charles-dark sunglasses included-of "America the Beautiful."
The night was filled with songs, laughter, a few tears, and many standing ovations and heartfelt applause.
It was a night to honor heroes.