What an amazing night! The 8th annual American Freedom Festival Washington presented by SKYDEX and CareerBuilder played to a packed house at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, VA on Saturday, November 12. In tribute to our military, the 3 hour extravaganza featured many extraordinary moments beginning with our co-host, SMA Tilley, riding on stage on a 2005 Venom Prostreet Chopper! Donated by FGM, Inc., SMA Tilley, dressed in his finest motorcycle gear, wowed the crowd with his impersonation of “The Fonz”. After introducing Senior Vice President of FGM, Mr. Guy D’Amour and thanking him for FGM’s outstanding contribution, SMA Tilley got things started with a tribute to our veterans. Earlier in the day, the American Freedom Foundation, in conjunction with the wonderful partnership with CareerBuilder, held a Veterans Hiring Event featuring some of the top companies in America. The theme of this year’s American Freedom Festival was “Hire A Veteran”. After commenting on the success of the Veterans Hiring Event, SMA introduced a video on the value of hiring veterans featuring the five members of Pinnacle Five. They took the stage to a thunderous applause acknowledging their service to our country. CareerBuilder then presented SMA Tilley with a check for $150,000 representing the charitable donations from the Veterans Hiring Event participants.
Co-Host, actress and AFF board member, Karri Turner, joined SMA on stage to introduce the first musical act of the evening, Mr. Red Marlow. This great country singer gave a stellar performance showcasing an incredible vocal style.
Speaking of extraordinary moments, our next guest was speaker, Jason Redman. This former U.S. Navy Lieutenant and Seal gave a speech about his service to our country . . . paying tribute to all who came before him and the sacrifices made for our freedom. He moved every single person in the arena as witnessed by an extended standing ovation. It was simply incredible!
WUSA Channel 9’s Lesli Foster brought out our next musical act, Christal Rheams and Do Not Assume. They rocked the house getting the crowd ready for Daughtry.
Another extraordinary moment followed as SMA Tilley and Karri brought to the stage, presenting sponsor, SKYDEX’s president and CEO, Mike Buchen. Thinking he was there to make the first charitable contribution of the evening, Mike was visibly moved when he was presented a beautiful sculptured plaque representing his service and support to our military called the Heroes Supporting Heroes Award. He was speechless!
Next SMA Tilley invited John Downing from Solder On and Ken Falke from Boulder Crest Retreat for Wounded Warriors to the stage and presented them on behalf of our artists, all in attendance and our sponsors, $25,000 each. They were visibly moved by this presentation.
WASH’s Loo Katz then took the stage to introduce our featured act of the evening, Daughtry. Enough can’t be said for the talent of this group and the great energy they brought to the show. The band wowed the crowd; performing all their hits and then some. The audience stood and cheered through the entire performance. It was magical.
The evening ended on a very high note as SMA Tilley joined Daughtry on stage to announce that the American Freedom Foundation reached the $1,000,000 mark in giving in just seven (7) short years. Canons shot confetti throughout the entire arena as the crowd joined in celebration of this milestone for the Foundation.
Thanks go out to our 70 sponsors who made this event possible and the thousand in attendance who never stopped showing their appreciation for our veterans and service members. Throughout the evening it became so apparent that we must never forget the service and sacrifice our military has undertaken and continues to undertake to insure that we live a life of freedom.