Wings of Freedom Fish Fry Brings Community Out to Celebrate Veterans

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Photo by Lee Rennick.

Great weather brought out one of the largest crowds ever to the 21st Annual Wings of Freedom Fish Fry coordinated by the Smyrna Rotary Club. Thousands turned out to honor veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom, who served in all branches of the military between October 7, 2001 and December 28, 2014. There was also a remembrance of those lost on September 11, 2001. This year Rear Admiral Jimmy Taylor was honored posthumously as the first Grand Marshall of the event. Neil Orne, anchor for Good Morning Nashville, once again served as the Master of Ceremonies and Laia Jones sang the national anthem.

The Wings of Freedom Fish Fry has become a tradition in Smyrna, bringing thousands to the Azure Corporate Flight hangar at the Smyrna Airport. Entering through the airport office building, visitors hit the tarmac through a tent where local caterers provided tasty appetizers and desserts and local brewers and distributors offered beer and wine to guests over 21.

The drive-in car show had more entries than in the past according to organizers, with a sea of great cars on display, new and vintage. A cherry red Nissan Z sat near a military jeep which was across from a couple of 1950s “fin” cars, and so many more classic cars covered the tarmac in an array of bright colors.

Visitors to the event amiably chatted with their neighbors as they waited in line for fried catfish, French fries, hush puppies, chicken, cole slaw and other tasty treats.

“I’m a bit greasy after cooking catfish for hours and hours,” said Smyrna City Manager and Smyrna Rotary Club member Brian Hercules with a smile as he surveyed all the people enjoying his and his fellow club member’s hard work.

As dusk arrived, Oren took to the stage to get the celebrations underway. The Smyrna Fire Department Honor Guard presented the American flag with classic precision before the presentation of honors to the Operation Enduring Freedom veterans.

“I have kids not born when this started,” said current club president Eric E. Brown during his welcome to the crowd, “but they are now in the back working.”

Photos of the honorees were shown on the jumbo screen over the stage, and each was presented a certificate in honor of their service from club leaders.

After everyone was well fed and the guests were honored, DJ Victor Chatman worked his magic and got guests out on the dance floor and grooving to his sounds. There were more people than ever up line dancing and enjoying tunes like “Let’s Get this Party Started,” “Macarena” and “Cotton Eyed Joe.”

Proceeds from this event are donated back into the community. Over the last 21 years, Rotary Club of Smyrna has donated almost $2 million to various projects in Smyrna to make life better for everyone. One of the club’s most impactful projects is the Freedom Playground located at Lee Victory Park. The inclusive playground is designed to provide an opportunity for children of all abilities to enjoy the space together.

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