For some, the annual "Rockin' for the Troops" concert at Cantigny Park in Wheaton has a very special, personal meaning.
"We always have to support our troops, especially those who didn't get support in their time," said Vietnam veteran Dennis Goc, of Willowbrook, who served in the U.S. Navy. He and his wife have attended the event every year since moving back to the Chicago area in 2008, he said.
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For others, it's a chance to spend a relaxing day outdoors, with the added bonus of contributing to a good cause.
"It's a very beautiful area, and it's a very beautiful day today," said Evaristo Piceno of Aurora, who came with his wife and three children ages 6 to 8. "We brought fruit and beverages, stuff to stay cool."
The annual event held by Operation Support Our Troops -- America featured lots of musical acts, including headliner country music star Ronnie Dunn, half of the famous duo Brooks & Dunn, who was expected later in the evening.
Ten-year-old James Hubner of Romeoville, who came with his parents, said he hoped to hear some AC/DC songs. "They're my favorite," said James, who had his hair spray-painted a patriotic red, white and blue at the event.
Rockin' For the Troops always has a great atmosphere of camaraderie, said U.S. Air Force veteran Eric Mueller of Romeoville, who was stationed in Iraq in 2006.
"You're always meeting people and everyone is telling stories," he said. "There's a lot of generous people."
First-timers Laurel and Rick Rollins of Aurora said they found out about the event through Laurel's volunteer work for the local chapter of the National Association of Triads, which promotes senior safety.
"We work a lot with veterans, so I wanted to support it because of that," Laurel Rollins said.
Delaney Dygus, 18, of Wheaton, and Caroline Ferguson, 17, of Darien, said they enjoyed the chance to write letters to U.S. troops. Caroline's mother also brought some toiletries to send to the troops, they said.
Chicago resident Brandon Ramos, who has family in the western suburbs, wore his U.S. Army Reserves uniform to the event.
"I felt like I should because it's to support the troops, and I wanted to show who I am," he said. "I think it's good that so many families came out to support everyone that has served -- in the past and in the present."