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Air Force Week in the Heartland kicks off with a bang

Fireworks light up Rosenblatt Stadium at the conclusion of opening ceremonies for Air Force Week in the Heartland Aug. 9 in Omaha, Neb. The week is designed to broaden awareness of the Air Force's role in the war on terrorism and strengthen support for Airmen serving worldwide in defense of freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Fireworks light up Rosenblatt Stadium at the conclusion of opening ceremonies for Air Force Week in the Heartland Aug. 9 in Omaha, Neb. The week is designed to broaden awareness of the Air Force's role in the war on terrorism and strengthen support for Airmen serving worldwide in defense of freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Members of the Heartland of America Band play while the U.S. Air Force Academy Wings of Blue jump team fly into Rosenblatt Stadium during opening ceremonies for Air Force Week in the Heartland Aug. 9 in Omaha, Neb. The week is designed to broaden awareness of the Air Force's role in the war on terrorism and strengthen support for Airmen serving worldwide in defense of freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Members of the Heartland of America Band play while the U.S. Air Force Academy Wings of Blue jump team fly into Rosenblatt Stadium during opening ceremonies for Air Force Week in the Heartland Aug. 9 in Omaha, Neb. The week is designed to broaden awareness of the Air Force's role in the war on terrorism and strengthen support for Airmen serving worldwide in defense of freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

The Air Force Honor Guard drill team performs for approximately 10,000 spectators during the opening ceremonies of Air Force Week in the Heartland Aug. 9 at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb. The week is designed to broaden awareness of the Air Force's role in the war on terrorism and strengthen support for Airmen serving worldwide in defense of freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

The Air Force Honor Guard drill team performs for approximately 10,000 spectators during the opening ceremonies of Air Force Week in the Heartland Aug. 9 at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb. The week is designed to broaden awareness of the Air Force's role in the war on terrorism and strengthen support for Airmen serving worldwide in defense of freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Gen. Kevin P. Chilton administers the oath of enlistment to approximately 50 new recruits during a proclamation ceremony as part of Air Force Week in the Heartland Aug. 9 at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb. The week is designed to broaden awareness of the Air Force's role in the war on terrorism and strengthen support for Airmen serving worldwide in defense of freedom. General Chilton is the commander of U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Gen. Kevin P. Chilton administers the oath of enlistment to approximately 50 new recruits during a proclamation ceremony as part of Air Force Week in the Heartland Aug. 9 at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb. The week is designed to broaden awareness of the Air Force's role in the war on terrorism and strengthen support for Airmen serving worldwide in defense of freedom. General Chilton is the commander of U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Country music singer Jessica Andrews performs her No. 1 country hit song "Who I Am" during the opening ceremonies of Air Force Week in the Heartland to a crowd of approximately 10,000 spectators Aug. 9 at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb. The week is designed to broaden awareness of the Air Force's role in the war on terrorism and strengthen support for Airmen serving worldwide in defense of freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Country music singer Jessica Andrews performs her No. 1 country hit song "Who I Am" during the opening ceremonies of Air Force Week in the Heartland to a crowd of approximately 10,000 spectators Aug. 9 at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb. The week is designed to broaden awareness of the Air Force's role in the war on terrorism and strengthen support for Airmen serving worldwide in defense of freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

OMAHA, Neb. (AFPN) -- Fly-bys, music, military precision and fireworks broadcast the beginning of Air Force Week in the Heartland as more than 10,000 witnessed Airmen at their best Aug. 9 at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha.

Airmen from Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., hosted the free event to let the public experience what the Air Force is all about to kick off Air Force Week here that runs through Aug. 17.

The event kicked off as members of the Heritage Band of America entertained the crowd as U.S. Air Force Academy Wings of Blue jump team landed bringing in the American flag during the national anthem. Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman then read the proclamation announcing the beginning of Air Force Week in the Heartland.

"I really respect what the men and women of the Air Force do," Governor Heineman said. "They preserve our freedoms, protect our great country and I'm really proud of Airmen serving at Offutt and around the world. Nebraskans really appreciate military members for what they do. We are all one big family, and we're here to help the United States Air Force."

Following the proclamation, Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, welcomed the audience and then enlisted approximately 50 members into the Air Force. "I just want to recognize Iowa, Nebraska and the Heartland of America. Everywhere you go around here, people recognize you and thank you for your service, particularly if they see you in uniform," the general and former astronaut said. "It really makes you feel that they appreciate your service and makes us feel really good about what we do for America."

The Air Force Week program is part of a proactive initiative to increase awareness with the public in cities across the country. Air Force Week includes community visits and talks by Air Force officials, flight demonstration team performances and displays highlighting the Air Force men and women serving on the front lines. Air Force Week was held earlier this year in Philadelphia and is scheduled from Nov. 14 through 21 in Los Angeles.

One person who has seen what the Air Force is all about is Jonathan Francis. The 20-year-old's mother and father served in the Air Force and he said he wants to keep the tradition going just before he took the oath of service in front of the Rosenblatt audience. He leaves Aug. 19 to attend Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, before he goes to school to become a security forces member.

"I woke up one day at college and knew it was my time to serve," the native of Howells, Neb., said. "This is a dream come true. This is my destiny and where I am supposed to be in life."

Next, the Air Force Honor Guard members showed what precision is all about as they spun their rifles in unison at rates of up to 40 mph. The audience roared with applause during and after their performance. Three Offutt AFB members in attendance were then recognized for their service fighting the war on terrorism in video testimonials shown on the stadium's large screen and then stood to be thanked by the crowd. Following a musical set by the Heartland of America Band's Night Wing ensemble, a C-17 Globemaster III, a KC-135 Stratotanker, two F-16 Fighting Falcons and a B-2 Spirit soared over the audience.

On hand to watch the Air Force in action were Don and Sharon Davidson, who just moved back to Omaha after living in Florida for nine years.

"We support the Air Force and all they do for us," Mrs. Davidson said. "My 5-year-old granddaughter loved the Air Force displays and my 2-year-old grandson loved the firetrucks and military dogs. This is great the Air Force did this for us to see."

Bringing fans to their feet and making children imitate the band as they played air guitar was Jessica Andrews and her band. The 24-year-old singing sensation hit No. 1 on the country charts with her hit, "Who I am" and has been awarded Top New Female Vocalist from the Academy of Country Music.

"I just want to help encourage people to support all the men and women in the Air Force and Air Force Week," Ms. Andrews said. "I don't know how (military members) do what they do. They are so committed to their country. They are so much bigger to me than what I could ever possibly be, so it's just an honor for me to meet some of these people. I just want to say thank you to each of them."

The evening ended with a 20-minute fireworks display. For more information on Air Force Week in the Heartland activities, visit www.airforceweekintheheartland.com.