By JOSHUA BRUNI
The first Hometown Heroes event took place on Saturday, June 30, at the Johnson City Mall. Hundreds of people attended to honor veterans, first responders and military personnel. The Johnson City Mall collaborated with 96.9 WXBQ, U.S Army, and East Tennessee State University Office of Veterans Affairs to produce this event.
Kelly Roberts, marketing director of the Johnson City Mall, told the Herald and Tribune that the event was “family friendly” and was a “day full of all kinds of things.” Many businesses and vendors attended such as Johnson City Brewing Co., Niswonger Children’s Hospital, Hometrust Bank, Baxtor Real Estate Co., Caribbean Grill and more. There were also inflatables for the children.
Stage presentations throughout the day included the Forever 21 Red, White and Blue Fashion Show, Olson’s Martial Arts, and crowd favorites Michael Tyler and Michael Ray. Tyler is a new country songwriter and artist. He told the Herald and Tribune he grew up “hunting, fishing, and riding four-wheelers” in a small town of about 2,000 people. He said if he could have one thing for fans to remember about him it would be “how good they felt at one of my shows.”
He also shared a special message for local Hometown Heroes. “There is nothing we can say or do to make up for what they done” Tyler said. “I just want to say thank you all so much.”
Michael Ray is a well-known country artist. His songs can frequently be heard on 96.9 WXBQ. He too grew up in a small town, he said, and “played at a lot of festivals around town with my grandfather.” Ray said his “middle class hardworking” family was very supportive and “kept a guitar in my hand when I was a kid.” Ray said he would like to thank our Hometown Heroes “for putting all on the line and doing it for people you don’t even know.”
“We all have the same opportunities because of the men and women that fight for us to have that,” he said.