Beaches Freedom Festival to Honor Eight Hometown Heroes
JACKSONVILLE BEACH, FL– This Saturday, July 13th at the Seawalk Pavilion, the Beaches Freedom Festival will recognize several outstanding military members and veterans who are doing great things in the community. The ceremony will take place during North Florida’s Most Patriotic Event on the main stage at 6:00pm. All of the honorees were nominated by peers, friends, or family members and have made and have significant accomplishments in the North Florida area. In addition, the festival will support and benefit eight different Veteran and community non profits.
2019 Freedom Festival Honorees:
Sgt Nathan Bradley:
Sgt Nathan Bradley enlisted in the USMC in 2010 out of Jacksonville, FL. During his time in the Marines, Sgt Bradley was deployed twice and attended several military schools. He first deployed to Afghanistan where he received a meritorious promotion and was awarded for actions taken against the enemy. Sgt Bradley also served several months in southeast Asia, and spent some time deployed to Okinawa, Japan. In 2014, Sgt Bradley left the Marines and attended the UNF, where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Business. It was during this time that he started working with veterans in the community, including co- founding a non-profit organization, Warfighters in Arms. Sgt Bradley took his love for helping veteran’s a step further when he accepted the position of Veteran Liaison & Community Outreach for 904 Happy Hour, where he is currently employed. In his position, Sgt Bradley now helps raise funds for other nonprofits, employ veterans, and recognize others who are doing great things in the community. He is currently serving with Marine Corps reserve unit in Florida.
Sgt Fred Blaz:
Fred Blaz served 6.5 years in the Marine Corps and got out as a Sgt. During his time in, he was stationed with 3/3 out of Hawaii where he did one tour to Afghanistan. Following his deployment, he served as a Marine Corps Embassy Security Guard at several duty stations around the globe.
After getting out of the Marine Corps, Fred attended college at JU where he obtained a Bachelors of Business in Finance and is on his last semester of his MBA. While at JU Fred served as the VP of JU’s Student Veterans of America Chapter.
He currently serves as the Director of Public Relations for Vets4Vets of Northeast Florida, the Board of Directors for the Semper Fidelis Society, and is the Marine 4 Life Rep for Marine Corps League Nassau Detachment. He is also a member of the American Legion in Fernandina Beach and the VFW in Jax Beach
SSgt Rebecca Schilling:
SSgt Rebecca Schilling is originally from Rochester, Minnesota and enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2011. Following recruit training and MOS school, she was stationed at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island with the Parris Island Marine Band. She later became a Canvassing Recruiter with Recruiting Station Jacksonville in 2016. Through her time in the Marine Corps, SSgt Schilling has dedicated over 500 hours to volunteering with non-profit organizations such as: Toys for Tots, Warfighter’s in Arms, Operation Barnabas, and Jasper Animal Rescue Mission. SSgt plans to continue volunteering in the future as she moves on to Okinawa, Japan at the end of September.
SSgt Justin Cabrera:
SSgt Cabrera a native of Springfield, Massachusetts joined the United States Marine Corps in 2009. SSgt Cabrera began his career with 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. During his five-year tour there he completed a deployment to Africa in a bi-lateral effort to train and tighten relations with the Ghanaian Military. He then went on to deploy again with a Task Force that stemmed, based off the attacks on American Embassies in 2012. He transferred duty stations to Camp Pendleton, California to become an instructor at his Military Occupational Specialty School. At the conclusion of his tour, he returned to the operating force to deploy once again to Okinawa, Japan attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
In October of 2018, SSgt Cabrera transferred to Jacksonville, Florida where he is currently the Training Chief for the 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion Bravo Company. As a member of the active duty staff, he performs Marine Corps funeral honors in the North Florida and South Georgia area to support fallen veterans. SSgt Cabrera has also taken on the role as Toys for Tots coordinator for the Greater Jacksonville area. Last year, the Toys for Tots organization donated over 48,000 toys to 16,000 local children.
LTC Laura Hart-Wickett:
LTC. Wickett received her commission as a 2LT in the Women’s Army Corps, United States Army in 1976 and was assigned to the Military Police Branch. Throughout her honorable and trailblazing military career of 28 years, LTC. Wickett held many leadership roles within Military Police Branch, often being the 1st female officer assigned to a Command.
After the 9/11 attacks, LTC Wickett was instrumental with creating and implementing new safety and security protocol for the Virginia and Georgia Army National Guard.
Now retired, LTC. Wickett continues her personal commitment to selfless service as a member and Chaplain of the Women’s Army Corps Veterans Association Chapter 56 Jacksonville AND through her community service assisting the hurricane victims of the Florida Panhandle.
MSgt Bruce Thompson, United States Marine Corps retired, served 24 years on active duty working in the communication, logistics, and human resource management fields. Made multiple combat deployments. Awards include two meritorious service medals, 2 Navy & Marine Corps Commendation medals, 2 Navy & Marine Corps Achievement medals, and the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, among others awards.
Since retiring in 2016, he has become the Executive Director of Vets4Vets of NEFL, a co-founder of Vets on T.A.P., co-chair of the Community Veterans Engagement Board of NEFL, and a member of multiple veteran non-profit boards. He has made it his priority to work with veterans, transitioning service members, and their families to improve on their quality of life, while working to ensure that veterans are not forgotten or ignored in the NEFL region.
Nathan Wagner served in the United States Air Force from 2008-2015 as a Cyber Systems Operator. While stationed at Keesler AFB in Mississippi for training, Nathan helped coordinate and lead the base Drum and Bugle Corps in various events to include: weekly retreat ceremonies, a Purple Heart ceremony, a Veterans Day Parade and various other shows and performances around the base. After PCSing to Holloman AFB in New Mexico, Nathan was direct communications support for the Predator and Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft training mission ensuring 100% uptime during critical training and support missions. Nathan was promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant and was medically separated from Active duty after undergoing multiple foot surgeries at his final duty station.
Currently Nathan is working as an administrator with the Clay County School District as a Technology Services Coordinator. While always wearing many hats, Nathan has recently been moved to the Cyber Security team within the School District and still actively gives his time as needed for any School District needs.
SSG Jamal Hafiz:
SSG Jamal joined the U.S. Army right after high school in 2003. Soon after, he deployed to Iraq in support of OIF as a truck driver running supply routes with the 942nd Transportation Company. After several years serving in different units, he decided to become an infantry man in the Florida Army National Guard as an Infantryman. He currently holds the rank of Staff Sergeant and has 16 years of service in the Army.
Jamal is currently a SWAT team medic and Alachua County Sheriffs Office SWAT team. He is happily married to his wife Victoria.
Beaches Freedom Festival is North Florida’s largest summer event happening on Saturday, July 13th at the Jacksonville Beach Seawalk Pavilion. The festival benefits multiple veteran organizations and features live music, food trucks, a hot dog eating contest, corn hole tournament, artists, makers, vendors, kid zone, games, activities, and so much more.
Music kicks off at noon by the band Kapowski with performances throughout the afternoon until 10pm. Headlining the festival from Jacksonville Fl is The Band Be Easy, widely known for their fusion of funk, pop, & reggae genres and legendary live shows! General admission to the festival is FREE, but to enjoy the complete experience, a VIP Pass is recommended.
UPGRADED VIP EXPERIENCE–The festival’s new VIP area will include air-conditioned bathrooms, complimentary beer & refreshments, access to the All About Events shaded tent & chill lounge, shaded seating area, a commemorative cup, artist encounters and more.
FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS – All attendees can indulge in street fare from over 14 of the area’s most popular food trucks plus visit 40+ local artist & vendors. Additionally, there will be a 2,500 square foot shaded tent with seating open to the public who are looking for a place to relax and escape the sun. Family friendly activities will include water slides and bounce houses, a human sized hamster wheel that makes snow cones, a putting green from The First Tee, face painters, games, crafts, and other activities.
HONORING THOSE WHO SERVE– Veteran Non-Profits and community partners this year include Vets on TAP, The Beirut Memorial, One Team One Fight 4 PTSD, Florida4Warriors, Vets4Vets of Northeast Florida, Women’s Army Corps Veterans’ Association: Chapter # 56 Jacksonville Fl, The Wagoner Foundation, Warfighters in Arms, The Jacksonville Jaycees, plus more.
“We are excited to be able to bring these special organizations together and assist them with public awareness and fundraising efforts for their critical missions in the community. Additionally, we will be honoring multiple Hometown Heroes on the main stage in-between entertainers for their outstanding character and dedication to serving others,”said Nathan Bradley, Director of Veteran Affairs at 904 Happy Hour.
“Last year, thousands attended the festival’s 2ndyear in Jax Beach. It’s exciting to see the enormous amount of support from attendees and our sponsors to help make this community event possible. We produce this event to honor our Hometown Heroes, fundraise for our Veterans, and celebrate our great nation,”Charles Wagoner Jr, Event Promoter & Founder of The Wagoner Foundation.
ENTERTAINMENT LINEUP + EVENTS SCHEDULE:
SATURDAY, JULY 13TH:
12:00 – 1:00 PM: Kapowski
1:00 PM: Men’s Hot Dog Eating Contest 1:00 PM: Cornhole Tournament Begins 1:30-2:30 PM: Julia Gulia
2:30 PM: Womens Hot Dog Eating Contest 3:00-4:00 PM: Gov Club
4:30-6:00 PM: Split Tone
6:30-8:00 PM: Lets Ride Brass Band 8:30-10:00 PM: The Band Be Easy
SUNDAY JULY 14TH:
8:00-10:00 AM: Summer Beach Clean Up
Questions, PR & Media Passes: Charles@904HappyHour.com
B Roll, & Marketing Materials: Charles@904HappyHour.com
Veteran & Community Affairs: NBradley@904HappyHour.com
Sponsorship, Group Tickets & Vendor Inquires: Events@904HappyHour.comArtist Interviews & Entertainment Inquires: firstname.lastname@example.org
EVENT WEB LINKS
Festival Website: www.BeachesFreedomFest.com
Festival Facebook: www.facebook.com/BeachesFreedomFest
Festival Instagram:www.instagram.com/beachesfreedomfest | @BeachesFreedomFest Corn Hole Tournament Registration: http://bit.ly/2019CornholeTournament
Hot Dog Eating Contest Sign Up: http://bit.ly/2019HotDogCompetition
Beach Cleanup: http://bit.ly/2019SummerBeachCleanup
2018 Video Footage: www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSp7uZ-mOFw