Thousands of military members, their families and veterans gathered at Naval Station Mayport on Sunday night for a free "Live from the Homefront" concert featuring country superstar Tim McGraw.
After the presentation of colors and the National Anthem was performed by Navy Musician 2nd Class Laura Carey, opening act Tyler Farr kicked off the country-theme show to help current and former military members and their families celebrate Veterans Day.
McGraw then took the stage to perform his free concert on Wharf Charlie at Mayport -- home to nearly 5,000 uniformed service members, their families and 2,000 Department of Defense civilian employees. The concert was presented by Chase Banks.
"Give yourself a hand," McGraw told the crowd. "Thank you for all the work you do."
McGraw opened with Green Grass, then performed a dozen more hits: Southern Girls, Felt Good on My Lips, Live Like You Were Dying and One Of Those Nights.
"When I go out and do this show tonight want these guys and gals to not worry," McGraw told Channel 4's Mary Baer before the concert. "I want them to leave all their troubles behind have a great time tonight. You sort of have an unsigned contract that we're all going to let everything go for a couple hours and we're going to jump into the stream together and enjoy ourselves."
The crowd responded just as McGraw had hoped.
"I loved it! It was so exciting," said Tiffany Patton, whose father-in-law is retired Navy. "I've been to one of his concerts, previously, but this is the best."
Serving as backdrop of the concert broadcast worldwide on The Pentagon Channel and streamed online was the Mayport basin, including the USS Vicksburg, which was lit up for everyone to see.
"It's pretty cool because all the hard work we put in, and it pays off to see it glorified the way it should be," said Blake Huey, who is stationed on the Vicksburg.
Farr and his band toured the ship before the show. He called that the highlight of his day.
“If it wasn’t for those people out there that take their time and sacrifice their lives and being away from their families and kids we would not have country music we wouldn’t be able to live in a country where I can write songs,” Farr said.
Those in the crowd appreciated the recognition they received from a couple of their musical heroes.
“It’s awesome – so awesome. Great support for the military,” said Patty Jossim, who grew up in a military family and brought a sign to hold reading “Jax Loves Our Military.”
Mayor Alvin Brown says couldn’t that sentiment couldn't be any more true.
“What better way to say thank you to those who serve, continue to serve and those who have served, and to honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Brown said.
For so many of the veterans, their family and active-duty military in the crowd, this was the best Veterans Day they say they’ve ever had.
That was especially true for Bill Spellman, who was on stage as the show began as a member of the color guard.
“(I) love being in the Navy, love being at Mayport. It’s amazing. It’s great. And it’s an awesome thing,” Spellman said.
McGraw not only sang his hits Sunday night, he and his partners also gave a Jacksonville military family a special gift: a home.
McGraw, Chase and Operation HomeFront partnered more than a year ago for their HomeFront program. They have awarded more than 70 mortgage-free homes to wounded warriors and military members in need.