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Gretchen Wilson sings a song as she plays her guitar during the fourth annual We Salute You celebration featuring Wilson and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego Band May 16 at Victory Field. This is the first time she has preformed at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center.

Photo by Cpl. Margaret Clark Hughes

Gretchen Wilson lassos Combat Center crowd

16 May 2009 | Cpl. Margaret Clark Hughes

Victory Field was packed with lawn chairs and blankets as service members and their families crammed in to see a famous country music star perform.

The Combat Center’s Marine Corps Community Services hosted the fourth annual We Salute You celebration, this year featuring Gretchen Wilson and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego Band, May 16.

The evening started early with free, fun-filled events for base personnel and their families.  There were many activities to beat the heat, including a blow-up water slide, water gun fights, water misters and snow cones. Free food and drinks were also available throughout the evening to appease the appetites of the attendees.

Before the MCRD Band opened the evening Kevyn Major Howard, the founder of Fueled by the Fallen, came on stage to introduce the non-profit organization. 

The organization displayed classic Chevy Nova drag race cars that were converted to memorialize fallen Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan by displaying each name on one of the vehicles.  Howard said that he wanted to do his part in keeping their memories alive.

The MCRD Band opened the show by playing the National Anthem.  As the colors were displayed, everyone on the entire field stopped and saluted, stood at attention, or placed their hand over their heart as they paid their respect.

The band serenaded the crowd with music, as children continued to play and families enjoyed each others company until Wilson took the stage.

As the sun was beginning to set, the audience grew to approximately 14,000 attendees, said Kelley Coe, the special events program manager for MCCS, and a native of Brooks, Ga.

As everyone anxiously awaited Wilson to perform, a lucky few attended a meet and greet before her performance.  About 30 Marines were able get an autograph and take a picture with Wilson at the base’s West Gym.

After the meet and greet, Wilson took to the stage and the excited crowd cheered as she opened her act with “Here for the Party.”

As Wilson played some of her well-known hits including “Redneck Woman” and “One of the Boys,” she paused in between songs and said to the audience, “We appreciate all that you do.” 

As the audience cheered, Wilson continued to sing some new and cover songs, and her band played a rocked out guitar version of the National Anthem while a flag was raised on stage.

“The energy coming from the stage was just rocking my world,” said Cpl. Pedro Baez, a missileman with TOW Platoon, 1st Tank Battalion, and a Miami native. “Thanks to her I can’t wait for the next time country comes to town.”

At the end of the concert, many people were headed home with smiles on their faces as they recapped their favorite events of the evening with their friends and family.

“This was a pretty good concert,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Popp, the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of the Mojave Viper Support Detachment, and a native of Lancaster, Wis. “I love the fact that a non-political voice came out and said what she wanted to say.”

The field emptied as people loaded up in their vehicles or took buses back to base housing. It was an event-filled evening that coincidently helped celebrate Armed Forces Day and showed service members and families that people do recognize the sacrifices they endure for their country.

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