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Freedom Fest honors military sacrifice, service

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Posted: Monday, July 2, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:48 am, Mon Jul 2, 2012.

A crowd of 200 picnickers paused just before the final line while singing the national anthem.

"Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave/O'er the land of the free ..." sang the group at The Home Church on West Lane.

Tent poles and window panes shook as a pair of Blue Angels F-16 jets flew low overhead, drowning out everything with the sound of their powerful engines and afterburners.

"And the home of the brave!" The crowd finished the song and dissolved into rousing applause.

This was the culminating moment of the Freedom Fest, an annual tradition at The Home Church to honor military and public safety heroes, and to celebrate hard-won American independence. From train rides to bounce houses, antique cars to barbecue, families from around the area gathered for a fun afternoon.

To the outsider, it seemed like a major event. But to Pastor Luke Pollock, it was just the annual church picnic.

"We're here to honor the heroes, because they're the ones who keep us free, and we value their sacrifice," said Pollock.

A large memorial was set up in front of the church to do just that. The Welcome Home Heroes Traveling Tribute displayed dozens of photos of servicemen and women from San Joaquin County who had been killed in action, flanked by a line of full-sized American flags stretching across the property.

The front driveway of the church hosted a car show featuring 48 classic vehicles. The show included at least six Ford Mustangs from the late '60s to early '70s, a pair of military jeeps outfitted with a fake MG40 machine gun and a Thompson submachine gun, and a 1920s speedster with a top speed of 30 mph. In a place of honor at the center of the show was a dune buggy built by John Regalia of Stockton.

Regalia was a longtime member of the church who passed away from cancer this year at 74, and this year's car show was in his memory.

Families gathered with their children for a picnic dinner and to socialize with new and old friends.

Church member Erica Lincoln attended the event with her husband and children because of the casual opportunity it offers to spread the word of Christ, she said.

"It's a good opportunity for us to witness our faith to others, to show that the church is not as scary as people make it out to be," she said.

But for many little boys and girls, the jet flyover was the big draw of the day.

Five year old Roman Macias was quick to look at his dad's camera the moment the jets were out of sight.

"I wish I could have seen it for real instead of looking through the camera," said Rick Macias of Lodi, after showing his son the footage.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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