Vietnam veteran Andy Willard knows the value in honoring those who have protected our country in the past and continue to do so today.
"I think it's very important," said Willard, who served two tours in Vietnam. "I have a lot of respect for the (military members) that are serving now and also in the past."
Willard will show his appreciation by sponsoring a freedom festival on Saturday at Gordon Park Speedway, 3157 Gordon Highway, Grovetown.
The inaugural Andy's Thank-A-Vet Freedom Fest will feature a full day of music, including performances by Jaycie Ward, Ken Will Morton, Iron Hill and The Jeremy Graham Band.
"I love music," said Willard, now 78. "I love people, and I thought it was the thing to do."
While fighting with the Army's 69th Engineer Battalion in Vietnam, Willard was awarded two Silver Stars and a Bronze Star.
Willard has two brothers who have served in the military, and his son Andrew Willard Jr. fought in Operation Desert Storm with the Army and currently works as a contractor in Iraq.
"He really kind of knows what all these guys are going through because he's been there," said Willard's daughter Marlene Willard, who is helping him organize the festival.
Gates to the freedom festival will open at 9 a.m., with karaoke starting at 10 a.m. A ceremony honoring fallen soldiers in the area will begin at noon, followed by the concerts.
"It's basically a thank-you festival," Marlene Willard said. "It's a way for the community to say thank you."
Alcohol, coolers and pets are not permitted inside the gates. A concession stand will be open at the speedway.
Guests are encouraged to bring blankets and chairs.
Tickets cost $3 for adults. Active-duty military, veterans and guests ages 18 and younger are admitted free.
Proceeds from the event will benefit an area veterans charity.
Beginning at 6 p.m., the speedway will hold a motocross race with proceeds benefiting SCOA Cares Foundation, which aids breast cancer patients. Admission costs $10 and is free for children ages 4 and younger.
For information about the freedom festival, visit www.andysthankavet.com.
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