By Kyle Cushman, Correspondent
Beltonians packed the house at First Baptist Church of Belton on Sunday afternoon for the sights and sounds of the 46th Annual God and Country Concert.
In addition to the Belton parade, the God and Country Concert is another significant July 4th celebration in Central Texas. Choir members united from First Baptist Church of Belton, First Baptist Church of Temple, Taylor’s Valley Baptist Church, First Baptist Church of Salado, and Canyon Creek Baptist Church to lead people in songs of worship and patriotism. They were also accompanied by the orchestra from the First Baptist Church of Belton.
Pastor Andy Davis welcomed everyone and introduced the choir and orchestra, as well as concert director Gary Bledsoe. Jared Burt, pastor of Taylor’s Valley Baptist Church, offered a sincere prayer thanking God for his goodness and asking for God’s blessing on our nation.
The Belton Police Color Guard made an impressive entrance, bearing the Texas and American flags. The Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem followed.
Several local public servants were present, including Belton mayor Marion Grayson Belton city councilman Craig Pearson. Grayson took a couple of minutes to address those attending, her third year to do so. “This invigorates me,” said Grayson. “It’s all about a lot of people sacrificing so that we can come together and celebrate our freedom.”
About half way through the performance, Andy Davis took time to recognize people who have served in our nation’s armed forces. World War II veterans in attendance and individually recognized were Ernest Winkler – Army, Jack Oliver – Air Force, Bill Winn – Army and Air Force, James Lewis – Navy, David Dodson – Navy, Darrell Caldwell – Air Force, Charles Thompson – Army Air Corps and Marge Dominy – Navy. Soon after, the orchestra played “Procession of the Patriots”. Each branch of the military stood for their portion of the song.
Edward Thomas, retired U.S. Army Major, served 2 tours in Vietnam. Everyone stood while Ed performed the laying of the wreath, a commemorative ceremony honoring those who gave their lives defending our freedom. It doesn’t happen every year, but this year’s concert also included a performance of “The Ragged Old Flag” poem. Ed rehearsed “The Ragged Old Flag”, while several other men participated in authentic military uniforms from all time eras. Gary Knight dressed as a confederate soldier. “Ed has been doing this for so long,” said Gary. “He is the one who gets everyone ready in the back, making sure the uniforms are just right.”
The concert concluded with a final song, “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”