FORT HOOD, Texas - Hundreds gathered here at Hood Stadium to partake in a plethora of activities, enjoy free concerts from Cassadee Pope and the X Ambassadors, and watch a 30-minute-long fireworks display Friday during Fort Hood’s Freedom Fest, June 24.
Freedom Fest is Fort Hood’s annual celebration for Independence Day. This year, the event was held 10 days before July 4, to allow Soldiers and their families opportunities to participate in celebrations in the surrounding communities.
Col. Chad R. Foster, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Hood, in a press release announcing change of venue, said the installation hosted its Freedom Fest earlier this year because over 75% of the military families live in the cities, towns and villages that surround Fort Hood.
“We want our Soldiers to enjoy the community celebrations being held with their families,” he said. “Also, when we conduct our Freedom Fest, nearly 500 individuals from across Fort Hood work in various capacities to make the event happen. This means that while others are celebrating the Independence Day holiday, they would be working. Having Freedom Fest on June 24th supported these goals.”
To kick off the event, visitors munched on items from food trucks, jumped around in bouncy houses and had their face painted all with the sounds of the 1st Cavalry Division Band playing in the background.
Lauren Hodges, volunteer for the Directorate of Family Morale Welfare and Recreation, was in the crowd dancing with unbelievable energy while the 1st Cav. Div. Band performed.
“I enjoy being social as a whole, but I also enjoy seeing the result of very hard work,” she said about why she enjoys events like Freedom Fest. “It took us quite a bit of time to put this all together, as with any large event, but at the end of the day, we love to see smiles.”
Mirroring Hodges’ energy 1st Lt. Brandon Guthrie, 89th Military Police Brigade, also danced the afternoon away waving around an American flag.
“I came out to enjoy the celebrations and take part in a tremendous event with all my fellow free people and have a great time,” he said.
When asked what he was looking forward to the most he didn’t hesitate to respond.
“The fireworks, the camaraderie and meeting all new people,” he said.
Members of the Fort Hood and III Armored Corps leadership team were present, including Brig. Gen. Christopher Beck, III Corps and Fort Hood deputy commanding general.
Beck shared that his favorite part of Freedom Fest was the live entertainment.
“From the 1st Cavalry Division Band, to Cassadee Pope and the X Ambassadors ... the entertainment was first class and brought in large crowds that danced and had a great time,” he said.
Beck was happy to see members of the Fort Hood community enjoy Freedom Fest in its entirety after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is great to see people out celebrating and having fun! Over the last several years, events like Freedom Fest have been cancelled or greatly downsized,” he said. “Giving the Fort Hood community an opportunity to get out and spend time with friends and family while seeing good entertainment and having a lot of family activities helps strengthen the community.”
The general said Fort Hood’s strength lies in its community and that events like Freedom Fest help it grow stronger.
“First and foremost, bringing the Fort Hood community together is very important because it strengthens our team. Whether it is Soldiers, DA (Department of Army) civilians, or family members, everyone in this community contributes in their own way to helping our units deliver when called upon by our nation. We can’t do that alone ... it starts with a strong community,” Beck said. “Second, it reminds us all that people are the foundation of everything we do. We ask our people to work hard each day to deliver their mission and events like Freedom Fest let us give back to those people. Finally, celebrating Independence Day reminds us all of the history of our nation and the principles that we are built on.”