The Wounded in Action Family Foundation (WIAFF) has made it their mission to help wounded war veterans integrate back into their home lives. Last night, they held Homeward Bound Heroes, a fundraiser concert to help raise money for that purpose. Larry King, the host of the event, informed the audience that the goal of the evening was to entertain, educate, and hopefully inspire us to personally help wounded soldiers. After my incredible evening at Strathmore, I would say that the eight talented performers of Homeward Bound Heroes helped accomplish that goal.
Everything in the concert revolved around the ideas of America and inspiration, right down to the beautiful stage design. The lighting reflected red, white, and blue, as well as white stars, onto white curtains on the sides of the stage. There was also a large projector screen on the back wall that was cleverly used to play videos of injured veterans.
While some of the footage was difficult to watch, the videos brilliantly helped enforce the message of the concert. For example, one of the videos portrayed a woman who acquired a heart condition while serving over seas. Her illness made living a normal life extremely difficult, until WIAFF came to her aid. One of the most moving moments of the evening was when the video ended and a spotlight moved to a woman in the audience. The woman in the video had attended the concert, and received a standing ovation for her service to our country.
Moments like this helped provide a good pace for the concert. Rather than just showcasing a series of performers, there were multiple speakers like Chaplin Mike Hoyt, Arnold Fields, and Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony G. Brown, who would share first hand accounts of what they had witnessed in the conflict areas. One of Hoyt’s points that affected me personally was that he had never known a soldier who asked for sympathy or pity. His speech was towards the beginning of the event, and set up the tone for the rest of the performance. The mix of speakers, videos, and performers, helped ensure that the concert did not lag from too much of one medium, but also created different ways to inspire, which was the main goal of the evening.
To begin the performance, representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard walked onto the stage, followed by another solider carrying the American flag. Tenor Antonio Guiliano then wowed us with his gorgeous rendition of the National Anthem. The ceremony was incredibly moving, and immediately inspired me through its beauty, which set up a positive tone for the rest of the concert.
The performances that followed took a different approach to the goal of inspiration, but were not any less impressive. Each of the performers dedicated their numbers to their personal heroes, whether that was a soldier or someone who simply had a major impact on them.
While all of the performers were extremely talented in their own way, a few in particular stood out. Laura Bryna’s powerful voice took over the concert hall. She dedicated her song, “Hometown Heroes” to her hero: her co-writer who recently passed away. The song was upbeat, and her excitement on that stage made her a joy to watch.
The Grammy Award-winning performers of Lonestar were simply fantastic.They performed soem of their big hits including “I’m Already There,” “Walking in Memphis,” and “Amazed.” Not only were they talented musicians who were clearly passionate about their music, but also, they were by far the most engaging group that we had witnessed at this point. They made jokes in between numbers and invited the audience to sing along to their more famous songs like “Walking in Memphis,” which seemed to bring them down to our level. Eliminating the barrier between performer and audience member helped emphasize the idea that we are all unified under the same nationality, and therefore, we should all help support those who protect our country.
I did not think anyone could quite live up to Lonestar’s great performance, but Nathan Osmond proved me wrong ending the concert with a bang, by singing songs from his new album entitled Homeward Bound Heroes.
He explained that he personally felt for the troops because both his father and grandfather had served for our country, and his passion for the cause radiated out of his performance. His first song was upbeat, and his dancing along to the music made it clear that he was having a blast on that stage. I loved watching his performance, and was especially impressed when he infused an equal amount of emotion into his second song of the evening – the patriotic and heartwarming “Stars and Stripes.”
In one of the videos projected onto the screen, Billy Dean sent a message to the war veterans: “You’ve been there for us, now it’s our turn to be there for you.” This quote perfectly summed up the concert as a whole, and connected to Osmond’s last number entitled “America.” He invited the audience to clap along, but also had all of the other performers to come on stage and sing along with him during the chorus. This created a brilliant end to the concert. Both the upbeat song and Dean’s quote united everyone in the concert hall under a common goal: to support America and its troops.
Running Time: 90 minutes.