Freedom Fest attracts thousands before weather halts show - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Freedom Fest attracts thousands before weather halts show

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Gary Sinise meeting military members at Freedom Fest Gary Sinise meeting military members at Freedom Fest
La Crosse, WI - LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) -The 7th annual Freedom Fest is a chance to honor soldiers and veterans who have volunteered to put their lives on the line to protect America's freedoms.

While the crowd enjoyed music from local band The Remainders, followed by one of the headliners Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band, it was a night similar to when Sinise performed at the first Freedom Fest seven years ago. As dark skies threatened and rain began to fall, during the performance, Sinise said a short prayer asking the bad weather to hold off.

It did, but not for long.

Rain, winds, and ultimately lightning forced organizers to call off the show due to the danger of the weather. It meant that the crowd of several thousand didn't get to see Huey Lewis and the News, nor the fireworks planned to end the night.

Just prior to word of the cancellation-as lightning flashed in the skies over Veterans Memorial Stadium-one of the most poignant moments of the night was the presentation of the "Fallen Heroes" that recognized military men and women who were not fortunate enough to come home.

Greg Gassen has been attending Freedom Fest for years. His son Jake died in Afghanistan while serving.

"I'll always grieve Jake's death, there is no time limit on that. But have come to realize through this grieving process, that I also have to celebrate his life. That's part of the healing process, too," Gassen said. "So as part of that celebration, that's why we are here at Freedom Fest."

Since Freedom Fest first started in 2008, organizers have honored more than 170 fallen heroes who lost their lives while in military service since Sept. 11,2001. That number does not include soldiers who lost their life this year.

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Sinise spoke to the media shortly before taking the stage at Freedom Fest. The organization he started, the Gary Sinise Foundation, provides a variety of help to those past and present who have served in the military and their families.  It also has meaning for his family.

"My nephew just got back from Afghanistan recently. We still have thousands deployed and they still get hurt, and that's unfortunately going to continue. That's the world be live in. So we should do everything we can to take care of these folks," Sinise said to News 19. 

The foundation runs programs designed to entertain, educate and strengthen soldiers, veterans, first responders and their families across the country.

Prior to the show, he met with military members and their families. With the backdrop of a large American flag, he posed for pictures and signed autographs.

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