American Legion National Commander Fang A. Wong presents country music artist Lee Greenwood with a Shelby Legion World Series appreciation plaque. (American Legion/Eldon Lindsay)

Unbridled enthusiasm in Shelby

On Aug. 15 at the LeGrand Center in Shelby, N.C., community members gave American Legion National Commander Fang A. Wong their signature welcome, hosting a banquet in his honor that included a special live performance by country music artist Lee Greenwood.

Commander Wong was thoroughly impressed with the outpouring of volunteer support and enthusiasm he witnessed that the community of Shelby exudes for the Legion World Series.

"This is great," Wong said. "And the collaboration seen here is certainly a service model that we can channel into getting communities and Legion posts nationwide to work together to take care of the troops when they come home."

The invitation-only banquet included many Shelby World Series volunteers, Auxiliary President Kris Nelson, Sons of The American Legion National Commander James Roberts and North Carolina Army National Guardsmen. And before Lee Greenwood graced the stage, words of appreciation were spoken by Eddie Holbrook, Shelby World Series Committee chairman, who also paid recognition to individuals who have contributed financially to the World Series existence in "The City of Pleasant Living."

Meanwhile, as soon as Greenwood broke into his popular hit, "God Bless the U.S.A.," the audience stood in unison to raise and hold hands. For Greenwood, his emotions toward the nearly 30-year-old sensational hit song "changes with the audience."

"With this particular environment, we have so many people in the audience that served in the military – this is a very core audience who embraces the feeling of America and its traditions," Greenwood said. "That’s why I wrote (‘God Bless the) U.S.A.’

"However, the song has been used in so many different ways over the past 30 years – the efforts of cleaning Katrina, for instance, and the people who lost things in the fires out in Colorado. There’s always a spirit of hope that you get from the song. It was just a piece of magic when it came out from the studio, and I had no idea it would have such an impact for such a long time."

After his performance, the national commander presented Greenwood with a Shelby Legion World Series plaque for his service to America through the release of patriotic songs.