ORLANDO, FL. – Under a canopy of stars, peeking through the skylight in the atrium at Orlando International Airport, the stars and stripes waved proudly as hundreds of people from all over the world gathered to celebrate America’s 242nd birthday.
The annual Liberty Weekend festivities featured a rousing patriotic performance by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. The theme this year, “God Bless the U.S.A.”.
For the sixth year, the board of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority took the opportunity, during this symbolic occasion, to honor an American veteran who has contributed to and helped further the cause of aviation in Central Florida. This year the Colonel Joe Kittinger Award was presented to Lt. General Thomas L. Baptiste for his service as the Deputy Chairman for the NATO Military Committee and his distinguished military career including serving as an F-4E and F-16 fighter pilot, Assistant Director of Nuclear Operations HQ Defense Nuclear Agency and as Commander of the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center.
The annual event, which is unique in the nation, transforms the airport’s Hyatt Hotel atrium into a concert hall; complete with festive 4th of July decorations and a U.S. Marine Corp color guard.