Fort Bragg chaplains, community churches come together to 'Rock the Fort'
"Splinter," Jonathan Gerber, from God Rocks! jams out to the air guitar during a performance at Fort Bragg's Main Post Parade Field during the Rock the Fort concert, Sept. 25. God Rocks! was created to teach children important lessons from the Bible ... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Thousands of people, both military and civilian, congregated under the trees that provided little relief from the scorching sun to celebrate their spiritual beliefs during the Rock the Fort concert, Sept. 25, on the Main Post Parade Field.

Fort Bragg chaplains and 20 surrounding community churches came together, along with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for the opportunity to share their beliefs in the Christian religion.

Although, there was some national objection against the event, Rob Boston of the official blog of the American United for Separation of Church and State, stated that "the military has no business sponsoring a rally that is clearly designed to convert people to evangelical Christianity - or any other religion, for that matter."

However, Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg commanding general, stated in a letter responding to the concerns, that he was confident the planned event didn't infringe on anyone's freedoms.

"I have taken steps to ensure no Soldier in my command is pressured in any way to attend this event," Helmick wrote.

Nothing seemed out of place at the event and everyone who attended seemed to want to be there. Robert Lahiff, who attended the event with his wife Misty, thought it was a great opportunity.

"With so much controversy surrounding Christianity, it's great to see Fort Bragg and the surrounding community come together to put this on," Lahiff said.

Performances from Christian children's group, God Rocks!, and Christian song artists, Jason Crabb and Hawk Nelson headlined the event, but Josh Holland, team member of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, also gave a spiritual message.

Holland spoke to the crowd of a few thousand about the message of Bible verse John 3:16. He not only thanked the servicemembers present for their sacrifices and what they do to protect the nation's freedom, he also spoke about the freedom from sin. At the end of his message, Holland encouraged those who wanted to rededicate their lives to Jesus to join him in prayer.

"This is why I came out here," said Heather Pope, who heard about the event on a Christian radio station. "To celebrate; It's a great way to get the Word out to different ages and to help those who are lost."

Participants not only got the chance to celebrate their beliefs, but were given the opportunity of having one-on-one counseling with trained, spiritual counselors from Fort Bragg chapels and local churches, to get information on outreach programs and other events focusing on children and marriages. Many opportunities are being offered to military Families through on and off post services.

For instance, Club Beyond offers mentorship to military teens and adventures to ease the burdens and stresses of multiple deployments. High school youths meet at Cross Roads Coffee House on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. and middle school youths meet every other Thursday at Albritton Junior High at 3 p.m. For more information on youth groups, call Mike Fishel at (256) 520-2606.

Another event offered is a Military Marriage Seminar, presented by Military Ministry, is being offered to servicemembers and civilian employees. Hosted by Village Baptist Church on Oct. 15 and 16, childcare is provided and costs $25 per couple. For more information, contact Bruce Martin at 678-7178.

Fort Bragg remains committed to religious freedom and spiritual resiliency for all Soldiers, Families, and Army civilians, according to military chaplains. And it is the goal at Fort Bragg, to offer quality religious programs and events that will assist Soldiers and their Families to reinforce their spiritual resiliency.

"Fort Bragg and the Garrison Chaplain's office are continually striving to ensure we provide the highest quality of spiritual life for Soldiers, Families and civilians," said Col. David Hillis, Fort Bragg Garrison chaplain in an interview with Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. "(This event) is just one example of the many ways we meet this need across the spectrum of all major faith groups."