The Seventh-day Adventist Church has been a forceful advocate of religious liberty in the United States since its inception nearly 150 years ago. In step with celebrating this commitment, the Church’s Central California Conference Department of Education hosted a tribute concert for World War II veterans to honor the sacrifice they made to protect liberty for the nation. One hundred sixty-two students, from six Christian academies across central California, performed the “God Bless America” concert under the patronage of Senator Tom Berryhill.
The patriotic choral concert was held February 1, 2014, at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium, in Fresno, California. “The concert provides an opportunity for the choral students to honor our World War II veterans who protected our freedom to live the ‘American Dream,’” explained Ken Bullington, an associate superintendent of schools for the church in central California.
“Seventh-day Adventist schools strongly support the cause of liberty and the freedoms available to us,” added Dave Gillham, vice president for education. The concert will help students “develop an understanding of cultural and historical heritages, affirm a belief in the dignity and worth of others, and [acceptance of] responsibility for local, national, and global environments,” added Bullington.
Veterans attending the Saturday afternoon event included Frank Miyashiro, who served as a medic during the Vietnam War. “I love that we have many things to honor us veterans, but there’s been nothing like this,” he said of the concert. “Our veterans deserve the honor and appreciation for their dedication to the liberties [that] we have,” Gillham said. “The concert in [their] behalf was a small thanks for a life of service.”
The Senior Academy Student Chorale hosted the concert on behalf of Central Valley Honor Flight. The goal was to raise sponsorship funding for two World War II veterans to visit their memorial in Washington. Since 2004 the Honor Flight Network program has transported more than 100,000 World War II veterans to visit the memorial erected in their honor. Many veterans lack the physical and financial ability to make these trips on their own. Honor Flights also transports terminally ill veterans from any war. In the future, the group will begin transporting heroes from the Korean and Vietnam wars as well.
Central Valley Honor Flight board member, military wife, and volunteer, Leah Kidwell explained that there are approximately 5,000 World War II veterans living in the Fresno area. “Our first full charter flight was on October 29-31, 2013. We took 75 veterans to the World War II Memorial, Arlington Cemetery and the Library of Congress,” she said. Honor Flight and the academy choirs were happy to partner for the event: happy to honor the veterans; able to raise significant funds to continue the veterans’ trips to the memorial; and happy to be able to thank God and country for the freedoms we enjoy.
Author: Taneshia Kerr
Taneshia Kerr, assistant communication consultant, Central California Conference, of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, writes from Clovis, California.