By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Fort Hood Herald

There was plenty to do at Fort Hood in 2009 as Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation; USO; and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service were among the organizations that kept the area entertained.

The organizations hosted their regular activities, to include Hood Howdy and BLORA events, but the year was highlight by several large appearances.

Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band performed in late May and in mid-December as part of Fort Hood Community Strong.

It was important after the Nov. 5 shooting that left 13 dead and more than 30 wounded that Sinise and the band come back and show their support, he said. He and the band care about troops and "we're not going to forget about them when something like this happens."

"It's great to be back to be able to help," Sinise said.

Other celebrities who appeared at the Community Strong event included comedian Dana Carvey, rapper Chamillionaire, Nick Jonas, the Zac Brown Band, National Hot Rod Association Army car driver Tony Schumacher and STAIND lead singer Aaron Lewis.

The Los Lonely Boys played during a mid-April concert in conjunction with Fort Hood's Phantom Thunder. The event included a scenic motorcycle ride to promote rider safety.

About 100,000 packed Hood Stadium on July 4 to celebrate Freedom Fest, which was capped by the largest fireworks display in Central Texas.

A day of activities ended at sundown with a concert by country star Dierks Bentley, who told the crowd he was happy to spend his Fourth of July with the crowd and thanked the soldiers and families for their service and sacrifice.

Bentley's father was an officer in Japan during World War II and said he inspired him to write the song, "My Last Name." The singer said his dad was his hero for a lot of things, including his service.

Thousands waited in line in early December for Alaska's former governor and the former Republican vice-presidential nominee. Sarah Palin made a stop at Fort Hood as part of her nationwide book tour. "Going Rogue: An American Life" was released Nov. 18 and topped the New York Times Best Seller List.

Actor Vince Vaughn and director Peter Billingsley visited Fort Hood in late December to visit with soldiers and host screenings of "A Christmas Story" and "Couples Retreat."

Vaughn has starred in "Wedding Crashers," "Swingers" and "Dodgeball." Billingsley was made famous by playing the role of Ralphie, the boy who nearly shot his eye out, in "A Christmas Story." Billingsley directed "Couples Retreat," and Vaughn was its headliner.

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