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Gala Stars Pay Tribute to Wounded Troops in Song, Art

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

ORLANDO, Fla., Dec. 10, 2004 – Disabled veterans and their families gathered here for the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes: 1st Annual Road to Recovery Tribute and Conference were treated to a night of entertainment Dec. 9 at an event dubbed the "Gala Gratitude Tribute to Veterans."

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Country music star LeeAnn Womack performed several songs for the troops and their families at the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes Gala Gratitude Tribute to Veterans in Orlando, Fla., on Dec. 9. She concluded her performance with her hit "I Hope You Dance." Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
  

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Irish Tenor Ronan Tynan -- himself a world-class disabled athlete -- kicked off the gala with an inspiring performance of "God Bless America" and later performed a selection from the musical "The Man of LaMancha."

James Vandenheuvel said country music wasn't his thing, so he wasn't particularly excited about the rest of the entertainment on the schedule. However, after country music star LeeAnn Womack finished her concert with her hit "I Hope You Dance," Vandenheuvel had a change of heart. "It's pretty damn good," the soldier said.

Womack was a hard act to follow, judging by the thunderous applause as she concluded her performance. Country star Toby Keith, however, stepped up to the plate and hit a home run with the veterans and their families.

And artist Michael Israel didn't disappoint, coming to the stage three separate times and painting a canvas on the spot with great flair in time to music. His technique is unusual, but the results, it was unanimously agreed, were fantastic.

Even after the Gala officially ended, the festivities weren't over. Keith, Tynan and Israel posed for pictures and signed autographs for anyone and everyone who wanted one. The overall impression among the veterans and their families was that the evening was terrific.

"Fantastic," said Sgt. 1st Class Loren Sturm, 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry, Oregon National Guard. "Words can't express the feelings that we have for these wonderful people who can sit here and give back to these (disabled veterans)."

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Related Sites:
Coalition to Salute America's Heroes

Click photo for screen-resolution imageIrish Tenor Ronan Tynan performed "God Bless America" and a selection from the musical "The Man of LaMancha" for an appreciative audience. Tynan interrupted a vacation to perform at the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes Gala Gratitude Tribute to Veterans in Orlando, Fla., Dec. 9. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageToby Keith was a huge hit as he performed for the veterans and their families at the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes Gala Gratitude Tribute to Veterans in Orlando, Fla., Dec. 9. His appearance earned him a jacket from the coalition with the patches of every unit that has served in Iraq. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArtist Michael Israel has an unusual style that resulted in art that drew applause from the audience the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes Gala Gratitude Tribute to Veterans in Orlando, Fla., Dec. 9. A performance artist, he paints in time to music and completed three paintings on stage. He provided a lithograph of a painting he re-created on stage to each veteran. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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