It was a beautiful May afternoon in Bethesda. A crowd was forming on the helipad at Walter Reed National Medical Center. Anticipation grew as the stage was set and the grills were fired. Everyone was in the mood to celebrate. Our Invincible Spirit Festival was about to begin.
As an army of Sysco volunteers began serving our guests a delicious barbecue lunch, Gary and Chef Robert Irvine made their way through the line to greet folks, snap a few photos, and say Thank You to the wounded heroes, their families and the entire hospital staff.
Donald Rumsfeld and his wife Joyce, both supporters and friends of the Gary Sinise Foundation, also joined us to offer their gratitude and appreciation.
Our Master of Ceremonies, Chaplin COL Robert Powers (US Army), officially kicked off the festival by introducing a very special performance of the National Anthem. Suddenly, skydivers appeared overhead. During their descent, they unfurled an enormous American flag that waved and soared against the cloudless sky. The crowd went wild.
Captain Kass and Admiral Stocks welcomed the nearly NINE THOUSAND guests in attendance. They then introduced six FDNY members who arrived carrying a section of steel beam, a commemorative token from the World Trade Center wreckage. The Lt. Dan Band launched into a performance of “God Bless America” as the firefighters ceremoniously presented the beam to four soldiers from Walter Reed, a gift dedicated by our pals at the New York Fire Department.
And then, the fun really began.
The Lt. Dan Band took over and performed for nearly two hours straight. The crowd was dancing and singing along non-stop, even forming a conga line at one point. The kids in the audience also joined Gary onstage. During their rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin”, Robert Irvine and his team took to the stage alongside the band to sing and dance!
Even after the festival concluded with the band’s signature performance of “God Bless the USA”, many from the crowd stayed to bask in the perfect spring weather. A fantastic time was had by everyone – good food, great music, and an enormous amount of gratitude for our nation’s defenders and their loved ones. We hope this day provided everyone at Walter Reed with a respite from the stresses of their recovery and a reminder that better days are to come.
An extra special thank you to our sponsors and supporters. God bless.