CAMP WALKER, Republic of Korea -- Smiles, laughter and patriotic pride were everywhere during Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation's annual Independence Day celebration at Camp Walker, July 4th.
The annual Liberty Fest, hosted by U.S. Army Garrison Daegu's new commander Col. Edward J. Ballanco and Command Sgt. Major Alan J. Cline, welcomed nearly 2,000 service members, civilians, Families and community members to post for the biggest party of the summer.
"It really gives our families a taste of home," said Mitzie Jewitt, USAG Daegu's FMWR director. "This is really our biggest event of the year, and it's wonderful to see so many people here enjoying this together."
Jewitt acknowledged that throughout her four years in South Korea, the rainy season - which begins toward the end of June and runs to August, has often put a damper on the event.
However, she and her team were all smiles when the projected forecast held true and warm temperatures without a drop of rain provided the perfect backdrop for this year's event.
In an attempt to provide more options for families during the afternoon-long celebration, FMWR chose to make some changes to Liberty Fest. More arts and crafts, games and interactive options like a pugil stick area for kids were just some of those changes that proved to be a big hit.
"This is awesome," added Anne Anderson while watching her eight-year-old daughter Adriana grin from ear to ear as she jumped in the bounce house. "I'm really surprised by all the great things that are here for families."
Her husband, U.S. Army Private 1st Class Patrick Anderson is a member of 2nd Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery at Camp Carroll. "This is our first duty station," added Mrs. Anderson. To be in a foreign country and celebrate the 4th of July as a family is everything. It's reminiscent of home."
Live entertainment took center stage throughout the afternoon and into the evening as the LRD band led by Lance Reegan-Diehl, performed for the audience. "This is such a great crowd," said Reegan-Diehl during the band's intermission. "It really feels like we're all back home."
The front man, along with several of his bandmates, are DoD contractors stationed in Seoul. The band performs throughout the year across the peninsula, but Diehl said the 4th of July shows are probably his favorite.
"I get to stand on this stage and see people hanging out with their families," added the front man. "You get to see the smiles on their faces, and it's really the best seat in the house. We're just really happy to be part of this event."
Following Reegan-Diehl's Jimmy Hendrix-inspired rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner," the community jockeyed for the perfect spot to see the main event -- a 15-minute fireworks display.
As the fireworks lit up the clear sky over Daegu, kids with wide-eyed looks, along with parents who transformed back to their younger selves, basked in the ambiance of what it meant to celebrate Independence Day as a family and as a community.
Jewitt, tired after a long day and proud of what the team had accomplished, summed up what months of hard work and coordination meant for the community with one statement: "This really is a perfect event."