ATLANTA - Hundreds of faces lit up as they rocked out to country star Trace Adkins earlier this month.
The four-time Grammy nominee performed at a concert June 2 to honor military families at WSB-TV studios in midtown Atlanta. Kicks 101.5 collaborated with Channel 2 for the concert, which will air during the television station's July 4 Salute 2 America celebration at 10 p.m. Monday. It was a bright spot for many who have had their share of dark moments.
About 200 people huddled into the studio-turned-concert arena as they anxiously awaited the rock star. Among them was veteran Jenna Hughes. It was her third year coming to a Salute to America concert. She said community events and country music are much appreciated by service men and women.
“They love it. Country singers sing a lot of songs about war. The soldiers can relate to their music,” she said.
Hughes works with wounded soldiers at Fort Benning. She and her 3-year-old son are also awaiting the return of her husband, Jason, who is on his sixth military deployment.
“Just getting out, doing stuff makes the healing easier,” she said.
Meanwhile, Pvt. Kyle Stephan said he is waiting to get in on the action. He has spent three months at Fort Benning -- his first duty station, but he wants to serve for 20 years.
“I’m just here to serve my country and the people I love,” he said.
WSB-TV Trace Adkins Singing Moments later, Adkins entered through a hallway, waving to cheering fans. He opened with “Ladies Love Country Boys.” The platinum recording artist has several war-related songs and has done three tours with United Service Organizations.
In between songs, loved ones of fallen soldiers and those waiting behind were spotlighted. A young girl, her mother and grandmother were surprised with a recorded message from a soldier away since November.
“I’ll be home as soon. I can’t wait to get there,” he said in a video.
Later, a lone woman stood up, beaming as she spoke of her son’s courage fighting in Afghanistan.
“He was wonderful. He loved what he was doing. He always said if he didn’t come home, he was doing it for us,” Judy Berry said.
Her son died this spring.
Adkins followed up with “Arlington,” a first-person account of a slain soldier reassuring family members as he is about to buried at the national military cemetery. He tipped off his hat as he closed with the line, “Don’t cry because we’ve made it to Arlington.”