USO holds Military Appreciation Show

27 Feb 2010 | Lance Cpl. Victor A. Barrera

Laughter and joy filled the air. Marines were asked to dance by people they never met before as the singers jumped down from the stage to join the crowd on the dance floor.

More than 50 civilians and service members packed into the Jacksonville USO auditorium for the Military Appreciation Show, Feb. 27.

Wes Westfall, the coordinator for the event, first got the idea when he heard about Bank of America and their removal of flags on their property that were placed throughout Gaffney, South Carolina to honor Lance Cpl. Christopher Fowlkes, a Marine who died from wounds received in combat operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

“I wanted to show our service members that people do appreciate their service and commitment to our country,” said Westfall. “For them to step up during a time of war shows us that this country still has patriots.”

Westfall was committed to finding businesses and people who would volunteer their time or make contributions to be given out as prizes to service members who attended the event.

Contributions included watches, free hotel stays, dinners for two and gift certificates. Along with the donations, Westfall looked for people to perform for the service members and keep them entertained.

The entertainment came in a wide variety of acts: The Imitations, a beach, motown, ‘50s through ‘70s group, the Wilmington Police Pipes and Drum Corps and Chief Steve Silverheels, son of Jay Silverheels, who played Tonto in the television series The Lone Ranger.

The Imitations entertained the crowd with a variety of cover songs ranging from “The Electric Slide,” “Play That Funky Music” and “The Hustle.”.

“We love the military and are proud Americans,” said Mike Merritt, a member of The Imitations. “So when we were asked to participate we were more than willing.”

After The Imitations were done with their song covers the Wilmington Police Pipe and Drum Corps took the stage.

“When (the pipe and drum corps) got asked to play at the show the chief was more than willing,” said Ed Gibson, a retired police chief. “This is for a good cause, and they are proud to be here.”

Service members and their spouses who attended the show were grateful for all of the donations and time that went into the event.

“It’s encouraging knowing so many people stand behind our military and support what they do,” said Amber Johnston, a Marine spouse.