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July 4 festivities draw thousands
Fort Stewart event combines patriotism, entertainment
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Disc-Connected K-9s Frisbee champion Border Collie Flash catches a high-flung Frisbee from owner and trainer Lawrence Frederick. The canine performers entertained Monday at Fort Stewart. - photo by Denise Etheridge

An estimated 4,000-5,000 people cheered and swayed, many of them standing in front of the stage and others applauding from their lawn chairs during a free concert Monday evening on Fort Stewart, during the annual “Worth Fighting For” Independence Day event. Many more folks seemingly took advantage of family-friendly activities held earlier that day on Fort Stewart.

Fantasia of American Idol fame and country-western music’s Zac Brown Band sang from their souls before an enthusiastic, flag-waving crowd.

Kenner Rentiers, 18, of Garden City, and his friends, Nick Dowd, 19, of Hinesville, and Zack Pochet, 18, of Miami, made their way to the foot of the stage to see the Zac Brown Band perform live. Rentiers’ father is active-duty Air Force and Dowd’s mother is Hinesville Police Department Capt. Stella Sturla.

“They (the Zac Brown Band) sing from their heart,” Rentiers said.

“They have great musicianship,” Dowd added.

3rd Infantry Division commander Gen. Abe Abrams told the Courier he was pleased with the turnout and grateful to the entertainers for their support of troops and their families. Abrams said the Zac Brown Band performed for 3rd ID troops during the division’s deployment to Iraq last year. The general said the group chose to do a USO tour instead of attending a country music awards ceremony.

Fantasia “has an awesome voice” Abrams said, clearly impressed by the rhythm and blues singer’s talent.

Earlier on Independence Day, soldiers’ children enjoyed games as well as live entertainment on Fort Stewart’s Newman Field.

A crowd favorite, the Disc-Connected K9’s Frisbee dog show, returned to Fort Stewart for the seventh consecutive year, according to Disc-Connected K9 team member Michelle Thomas. The agile, Frisbee-catching dogs are rescues that have been physically and emotionally rehabilitated, Thomas said.

“We try to take advantage of this every year,” said Charmette Reed, whose husband, retired Army 1st Sgt. H. Glenn Reed, volunteered to help feed soldiers and their families at the food court Monday. Reed had brought Jalia Randleman, 11, and Kienna Ruskin, 12, to the event. The girls, who were posing for a photograph with K9 disc-catching champion Flash, called Reed “Grandma.”

Reed said she and her family have had to pay admission to these types of events at other installations.

“It is super fun,” said Army spouse Jennifer Austin. “We just moved here from Washington. We’ve never been to anything free like this before.” Austin said she and her kids were grateful for the community’s generous offerings.

Spc. Melody Migliaccio, who recently had returned from an Iraq deployment with the 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, brought her four daughters, Laniesha, 12, Courtney, 11, Angelina, 8, and Maria, 6, to the Worth Fighting For celebration.

Migliaccio admitted to feeling a little “overwhelmed” by the day’s many activities but said it was good to be home with her husband and children.

“I have a great husband,” she said. “None of it (military life) would be possible without him.”

The 4th Brigade was the last 3rd ID brigade to redeploy from Iraq. The Vanguard brigade recently moved into a new complex off Highway 144.

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