Our nation’s fallen heroes were honored tonight in downtown La Crosse at a dinner sponsored by Freedom Fest.
One local man who will be remembering his brother this weekend is La Crosse resident and veteran Don Gaunky: “Freedom Fest has always been an important thing for me to come to so that I have that time to connect with a group of people that I don’t see often enough.”
Don comes from a family of military veterans. Not only will his service be honored at tomorrow’s freedom fest, but the memory of his brother will be celebrated as well. “I have three brothers, Bob, Adam, and Alex. Alex was the youngest. He was Army like myself, the other two brothers were Navy. Alex is the one we lost in 2005, in November so we’re coming up on 10 years here.”
Freedom Fest is about more than the musical acts. Each year, they work with an organization called “Being There, Reaching Out,” which helps Wisconsin families who have lost a loved one due to our nation’s wars.
Judith Singer is the founder of “Being There, Reaching Out”. She says Freedom Fest provides a great opportunity for the families to come together. “They can talk with other families in the way that they can’t talk to people around them anymore. They can laugh without feeling guilty about laughing. They can cry, they always cry together but they laugh and they hug and it’s all about healing and that’s what we’re here for.”
Gaunky says he’s been to all but one Freedom Fests since 2008. He always finds a sense of support and community with all the families involved with being there and reaching out. “Freedom Fest has helped facilitate being able to be around this group of people that I don’t normally see often enough. It lets me know that I’m not alone. Freedom Fest is the vehicle that’s been able to do that, it’s one of the few things a year that I count on so that I can enjoy watching whatever music they bring in, so that we don’t feel discomfort from being able to enjoy that kind of thing.”
Freedom Fest will honor the families of our fallen heroes in a special presentation Saturday night at 9 pm in La Crosse.
Reporting: Fox 25-48’s Erin O’brien