HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A tradition returns now that Hendersonville’s Freedom Festival is back.
“[It's] our biggest event of the year, obviously probably one of the largest events we’ve had in over a year,” said Andy Gilley, director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Hendersonville.
But this year's festival featured something new.
“It’s people like them that are giving us the opportunity to do things like this. This wall is incredible and we’re lucky as a city to have it stop here on this holiday,” said Gilley.
The Fallen Heroes Memorial is making its way across the country raising proceeds for veterans and their families. “Talk about freedom- if it weren’t for these over 7,000 people who’ve given their life in the war on terror we wouldn’t be here today having a Freedom Festival," said Gilley.
The wall displays more than 7,000 dog tags. On each of them is the name of a fallen hero and their branch of service. It also includes 50 gold stars recognizing families of the fallen. In front of the memorial stands a wooden sculpture created by a veteran artist, Alicia Dietz.
For veteran David Moomy two of the tags hit close to home. “Name is Billie Grinder, she was a helicopter pilot,” said Moomy, who is the senior vice commander of VFW Post 9851, as he read off a dog tag on the wall. “Tyler Overstreet - it says here he was a Lance Corporal in the Marine Corps.”
Moomy said they were service members from Sumner County.
“It’s very emotional to see people that you know, or know of, and realize that they’ve given the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country," he said.
As residents stopped, stared and took photos, the wall served as a somber reminder of those who paid the ultimate price for freedom.
“Today, it’s like a party, but at some point throughout the night you’ll see people pause and understand that we’re here to celebrate our freedom but also honor those and pay respect to everybody who gave us that,” said Gilley.
The wall was created and taken around the country by the Veterans and Athletes United nonprofit run completely by veteran volunteers. They also hope to raise enough funds to build a similar memorial wall in Washington D.C.