PROVO — A schoolteacher, two soldiers and two television executives were honored Thursday at the Freedom Festival Awards Gala for embracing the cause of freedom.

The event was held at the ballroom of the BYU Wilkinson Center. Gala chairwoman Vicki Garbutt said the mission of the awards is to reward ordinary citizens who have somehow excelled in celebrating, honoring, teaching and strengthening the American values of family, freedom, God and country.

"We look for individuals who have done something in their spheres of influence to express that," Garbutt said.

This year's honorees include:

 Elder F. Enzio Busche, an emeritus general authority for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who as a teenager was a member of the Hitler Youth and German army. In the aftermath of WWII, he struggled to have hope for a better world but found his answer in God and has spent his years since sharing that source of hope with others.

 Joseph Banks, author of the book "A Distant Prayer," which relates Banks' story of being the sole survivor of a plane crash during a World War II mission and surviving nine months as a prisoner of war.

 Stacey Bess, a teacher at the School With No Name for homeless children in Salt Lake City, whose story was recently told in the Hallmark movie "Beyond the Blackboard."

 David P. Reid and Steven D. Comrie, television executives who spent the past two years helping to set up the first independent commercial television station in Afghanistan, despite numerous challenges and threats to their lives.

The Freedom Festival continues with events throughout the weekend.

 Freedom Days will be held Friday, Saturday and Monday on Center Street near University Avenue, showcasing some of the region's finest specialty products, fun hands-on activities, local entertainment and unique foods.

 On Friday, the Utah Symphony will perform outdoors at 8 p.m. at the Sundance Resort and will feature American folk music and a special rendition of "Casey at the Bat." Tickets are available through ArtTix by calling 801-355-ARTS.

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 The 27th annual Balloon Fest takes place at Bulldog Field, 1100 N. Freedom Blvd., in Provo, July 1, 2 and 4 from 6:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. each day.

 Stadium of Fire will be held Saturday at BYU's Lavell Edwards Stadium. Garbutt said tickets are still available for the event, which features performances by Brad Paisley and David Archuleta.

 The Grand Parade will be held Monday, July 4, along University Avenue, beginning at 9 a.m.

For more details and information about other Freedom Festival events, visit