Thousands turn out for celebration

Jorge Garcia said he felt the energy of hundreds of people egging him on as he and other Lakeside High School ROTC cadets twirled rifles in midair.


It gave him an inkling of what it must feel like to be a military man.

"The people are so excited about what you're doing," he said Saturday after his exhibition drill team performed at Thunder Over Augusta. "The people are here to support the Army, so it really gives me an idea of what it'll be like."

The Lakeside High junior plans to enlist in the Army after graduation.

By Saturday afternoon, nearly 10,000 people had gathered at the Augusta Common for the second annual event that salutes service members with a day of music, fireworks, a car show and military attractions. Donnie Thompson, an event sponsor, said organizers expected the turnout to rival last year's of more than 40,000.

Mr. Thompson said the event shows support for those who serve this country.

"When they came back from WWII and Vietnam, we didn't really have much for them," he said. "I felt like it was time to do something. It really does your heart good."

The Cajun food and fireworks were just part of the enjoyment for Marine Lance Cpl. Jonnathan Handshoe.

He has been a Marine for three years, but Saturday was the first time he truly witnessed the support of his country, he said.

"It's beautiful that all these people would honor us," he said. "So many people have come up to me, shook my hand and said thank you."

Reach Stephanie Toone at (706) 823-3215 or


Click here to see video of an Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps performance.

Click here to see various sights and sounds of 2009's Thunder Over Augusta.

See more photos from Saturday's celebration here.