• September 21, 2014

God and Country Concert honors military

80-strong choir, 1st Cavalry Division band join for musical experience that brings applause, cheers from audience

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Posted: Monday, July 1, 2013 4:30 am

BELTON — The band and choir brought a rousing response from those who attended the 42nd annual God and Country Concert on Sunday at the UMHB Mayborn Campus Center.

The 80-strong choir, made up of singers from First Baptist Church in Belton and First Baptist Church in Salado, joined with the 1st Cavalry Division Band from Fort Hood in a seamless musical experience. From “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” the audience sat spellbound, applauded, clapped in time to the music, or stood and cheered.

If there was a moment higher than the others, it might have been the sequence of the Laying of the Wreath, a poignant rendition of taps, and the choir and band’s uplifting performance of “Blades of Grass and Pure White Stones.”

Retired Brig. Gen. Randy Anderson laid the wreath as a memorial for those who gave their lives in the service of their country.

Or the high moment may have been toward the end, when one of the flag runners moved about the aisles waving a large American flag.

After the song “Great Land of Liberty,” Andy Davis, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Belton, recognized the few surviving veterans of World War II who were present, and the men and women currently serving in the armed forces.

During “Armed Forces on Parade,” members of the various military branches stood while a portion of their branch’s song was performed.

Davis also recognized elected officials and said, “You are in our prayers as you give leadership to our community.” During the welcome, Davis read Psalms 33:12: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

In the invocation, Travis Burleson, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Salado, said, “We dare not take for granted what we have.” He quoted Isaiah 33 and said of God, “It’s You who will save us.”

Belton Mayor Jim Covington listed a few improvements in the community and thanked the men and women of the military “as they wrap up two wars which have stretched them and taxed our economy. We owe a tremendous debt to these … that have protected you and me and given us our freedom and liberty we enjoy today.

“Similarly, we can also enjoy the freedom and liberty we have because of what Jesus has done for us in paying the price that we owe for our sin … so that we will not be separated from God’s glorious presence in heaven. It is altogether fitting and proper that we celebrate our God and our country together in this great venue.”

From his poem, “American Tapestry,” Tom Taylor of Belton read, “You’re a star in the heavens, a drop of water in the sea. … You’re a thread in the fabric of the American tapestry.”

Gary Bledsoe, music minister at First Baptist Church in Belton, directed the choir. Chief Warrant Officer Jeanne Pace, director of the band, was relieved on two of the numbers, first by 1st Sgt. Walter L. Johnston and later by Sgt. Maj. Robert C. Stagg.

The 1st Cavalry Division Honor Guard presented and retired the colors. Larry Sands was the narrator. Flag runners were Jacob Fitzwater, Ben Helmer, Caleb Parr and Zach Plunk.

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