Wednesday, February 25, 2015
For more than 25 years, AmeriCU has operated an office on Fort Drum, home of United States Army, 10th Mountain Division, which is one of the Army's most deployed units, and therefore, one that suffers many casualties. 2012 marked the first time since 9/11 that Fort Drum had a "full nest" (i.e., the majority of its soldiers returned from deployment). Therefore, AmeriCU wanted to do something really special to thank the soldiers returning from deployment for their valiant service to our country. Early in 2012, we approached the Director of Fort Drum's Division of Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (FMWR), to share our thoughts and ask if AmeriCU could bring a national country recording artist to perform for the returning soldiers and their families. The Army was very receptive and suggested that we hold the concert as the grand finale to MountainFest, which is an Independence Day celebration held each year. It is an event that is very important to the morale of the troops. The 2012 concert, which we called the AmeriCU "Salute to the Troops Concert", featured Top 10 country artist Jake Owen. Thousands of soldiers and their families attended. The event was so well-received by the military community that we decided to do it again in 2013.
We began planning the concert in January. Over the next six months, the nine employees who were primarily responsible for this project (Tina Wildhaber, Judith Cowden, Lori Losowski, Erin Reed, Carrie Perlet, Christine Walker, Tab Rightmyre, April Halladay, and Mark Decilles), dedicated more than 1000 hours to this project. In addition, six other employees worked all day the day of the event. Our measurable goals were to save MountainFest and to bring a large military audience to the concert to feel that their service is recognized and appreciated by the community.
WHY THE 2013 CONCERT WAS SO IMPORTANT TO THE COMMUNITY: When we planned the 2013 concert, though, we couldn't have imagined how important it would become. In April, the Director of FMWR informed us that without AmeriCU's sponsorship, the Army would be unable to hold MountainFest at all this year. Because of the sequester and probable government shutdown, there were simply no funds to pay for many of the other elements of MountainFest (such as the live air assault demonstration and live entertainment, etc.). In fact, because the Army had no funds to host its Protocol Tent for the Command and honored guests, FMWR asked AmeriCU to host these dignitaries on its behalf.
In 2013, AmeriCU hired national Top 10 country recording artist and U.S. Army veteran Craig Morgan to perform as the headliner. We also hired two opening acts and provided entertainment during the day so that MountainFest could take place. AmeriCU reached out to other sponsors to garner additional support, which included Lockheed Martin, Carthage Area Hospital, and Martin's Point Healthcare, as well as numerous in-kind sponsors. MountainFest and the AmeriCU Salute to the Troops concert took place Wednesday, June 26, 2013. Our promoter estimated that close to 20,000 troops and their families attended. As it was last year, the event was free and open to the public. Garrison Commander Colonel Gary Rosenberg informed us that Fort Drum was the only Army installation in the country that was able to hold an annual Independence Day celebration for their soldiers. The Command expressed their sincere gratitude to AmeriCU in a special ceremony preceding the concert.
The 2014 AmeriCU Salute to the Troops Tribute Concert lineup feature national recording artists Chris Cagle and Gloriana with Syracuse Area Music Award’s 2013 People’s Choice Winner Scars N' Stripes. Thanks to the support of major co-sponsors Carthage Area Hospital, Lockheed Martin, Martin's Point, FX Caprara Volkswagen & USO, Fort Drum we were again able to show our profound gratitude to the troops and their families. More than 20,000 military and civilian families attended the free concert, which was followed by a fireworks display.
To our knowledge, no other Army installation enjoys the kind of support so clearly demonstrated by members of the civilian community. The concert is a monumental effort for the credit union which requires a great deal of time and resources. However, the soldiers are important constituents of the credit union. Since the inaugural concert, we have increased the number of people we serve at Fort Drum by more than 2000 members. We believe that the concert enabled us to forge real connections to both the military and civilian audiences on Post, which have allowed us to better serve our membership. We are now invited to partner with the Army on many initiatives, including in-briefings of new soldiers, financial education and readiness training (provided with ACS – Army Community Service), and retirement preparation.
This project was truly a cooperative effort between the Army, the Credit Union, and the Community. By working together, we were able to empower ourselves to hold this celebration which is so important to the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division despite a lack of government funds. The AmeriCU employees who worked on this concert each volunteered between 20 and 100+ hours of service outside of business hours to pull it all together. And we did it with a smile on our faces, because we know that our efforts pale in comparison to the efforts and sacrifices these soldiers make for our country.