Nashville, TN- Country music artist and TV Show Host Lucas Hoge along with American300 Warrior Tours founder Robi Powers greeting hundreds of Troop supporters tonight at BB Kings in downtown Nashville. The evening organized by public affairs manager Laura Lynn and the staff at BB Kings featured a meet and greet followed by a one hour concert.
"I've been following the Tour on facebook since day one" said Brian Crabb, owner of AcePro Guitars, the manufacturer that assisted Lucas and American300 with finding the right model to have custom painted with our nations Armed Forces Branch emblems... and then signed by three of our living Medal of Honor Award recipients. " I watched in photos the first troops signatures become hundreds as the tour rolled on, every morning I'd have my laptop on with the Wrangler National Patriot Tour and drink a cup of coffee."
This follow along while "The Tour Continues...." brought Lucas and his band to this famous restaurant and performing arts stage on the opening day of the greatest outdoor gathering of music lovers in American; The Country Music Associations 'CMA FanFest 2011'. They came to not only meet, greet and thank fans for following the Armed Forces Entertainment Wrangler National Patriot Tour in the Middle East, but also to officially retire the 'Medal of Honor' AcePro guitar which had been custom painted by John Stewart. "Signed by Hundreds...Shared with Millions" was the theme of the night with opportunities for some American300 'Connectivity" to be mixed in. " We studied American300 before agreeing to put Lucas on Tour with them." said Laura Lynn, Hoge's Manager " Aside from their spotless record with the Department of Defense and great reviews from theater commanders and troopers, what we noticed was that the nonprofit is always striving for connections; connecting America with our Troops and the Troops and their families with America. The final performance for the Wrangler National Patriot Tour started off with Powers recognizing the members of Lucas' band who weren't able to come on tour.. 'but were with us every step of the way' ... as Powers 'Challenge COIN'd' each of the members with the official 'commanders' Tour Challenge COIN... " This is the big one guys, the one we gave to a very few" said Powers as he 'coin-shook' hands with guitar player; Thomas Becker, bass player Jim Bicknel, keyboard artist Zach Forbes and drummer Brian Beihl. Powers then recognized Brian Crabb of AcePro Guitars and Stacey Williams the General Manager of BB Kings along with his 'behind the scenes soldier' Laura Lynn, who has since joined American300 as the nonprofit's Tour Public Affairs Volunteer (they received Montana Silversmith Silver Wrangler National Patriot Belt Buckles) It was then time to call upon the room to welcome the guy they'd come to hear, the guy we've all fallen in love with ... LUCAS HOGE!
Lucas took the stage as the band filled the room and hearts of hundreds with the country music, wearing their pride and support for all to see the BB Kings wait staff members
moved throughout the room in their Wrangler National Patriot Tour Shirts as Lucas hooked up his guitar and joined in with his foursome "What you all are doing with these Troop Tours is just amazing, I just love the Medal of Honor Guitar and all the Troop signatures adoring it" said Country Music Entertainment executive Michelle Romeo, who like many were on hand to show their support for our nations Heroes.
With just a few songs remaining in the set, Lucas and band members took a break to allow Powers, to say a few words on behalf of the supporters of this tour. "The Wrangler Corporation wants everyone to know that beyond the board room, and Western Retailers shelves across the country, this tour represents the support of the entire Western Community, a community that has stood fast for our troops for centuries" said Powers, who then reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. After a quick speed dial he was on the phone with a special Troop Supporter, the mother who's husband is serving in the Middle East. " Jennifer can you hear me" said Powers into both his mobile phone and main stage Microphone, hey we just want you to know that you and your family have won the American300 Troop Salute Text2Win contest... you're all going to be getting a complete Wrangler Western Makeover!" the response by this mother of two was as expected... ample doses of surprise and delight "...hang on Jennifer, before I let you go can you give a shoutout to your husband, Master Sargent Michael Howell, USAF ... we've got a pile of TV cameras rolling" ... and with that Jennifer Howell, shared some words of love along with the families two children Austin and Alexia for their Hero, Husband and Father, making the night complete even from a million miles away.
No sooner had Jennifer showered love on her husband then Lucas and Band fire it up again, and they did so by recognizing the Howell's and all of our Heroes with the final playing of Lucas' song 'Medal of Honor' from the strings of the 'Medal of Honor Wrangler National Patriot Tour Guitar', after which Powers took the guitar and moved throughout the audience showing them the hundreds of signatures placed on this masterpiece; to officially start the 'Signed by Hundreds ... Shared with Millions' campaign.
The troop tour was presented by the Department of Defense Armed Forces En
tertainment Office. No fund raising activities took place during the Wrangler National Patriot Troop Tour, nor do they ever occur during an of America300's partnered tours with Armed Forces Entertainment. To learn more about our DoD Armed Forces Entertainment Office visit them at: www.armedforcesentertainment.com
The Tours Continue.... Next up 'Mount Fuji Sunrise - July 4, 2011 Featuring World Renowned Climbers and members of the US Army and USMC climbing in honor of our fallen in the land of the rising sun - Japan.
REVEILING THE MEDAL OF HONOR GUITAR TO THE USA
Tonight will be the first reveal of Lucas Hoge's "Medal Of Honor" guitar to the USA. The guitar traveled thousands of miles to several undisclosed bases including Afghanistan and the one of the smallest bases Camp Stone, named after SFC John T. Stone. John T. Stone was also Robi Powers, founder of Amerian300, Commander, and they had worked together for several years.
The Wrangler National Patriot Team had made many new friends during their visit over seas and Lucas Hoge had hundreds of Troops sign his "Medal Of Honor" guitar each night before he sang. The guitar was hand painted by John Stewart and donated to Lucas by Brian Crabb, owner of Acepro Guitars.
Representatives from Wrangler and the Military will watch tonight as Lucas will perform the "Welcome Home" "Medal of Honor" Song Tour concert at BB Kings in Nashville, TN, kicking off the 4 day CMA Fest 2011.
FEEL IT IN YOUR HEART - HALL OF HEROS PROMOTION CEREMONY
Today in our nations Hall of Heroes, LTC Kathleen Weatherspoon, chief of Armed Forces Entertainment was sworn in as Colonel Kathleen Weatherspoon, United States Air Force. She chose this very special day in history to honor both her father, a WWII combat veteran as well as the countless heroes who's names are both on the walls of this very special hall at the Pentagon, as well as the countless headstones and grave markers around the World.
A fraction of a percentage of all Armed Forces members ever attain the rank of Colonel (O-6), within the United States Air Force the number of those who obtain the right to wear ‘full bird’ on their shoulders is less then 6 percent. What’s even smaller in percentage are the number of field grade officers who put off their promotion ceremony. Today marked the end of a wait for Kathleen Weatherspoon, it also focused attention on a very special group of war veterans; our Medal of Honor recipients and fallen heroes.
Weatherspoon, chose this day in history (D Day) and this location; Heroes Hall at the Pentagon for many reasons. First, was the guidance that she received from her family, especially her WWII Combat Veteran father, who while having passed on years ago was in attendance to
day in spirit, so much so that his presence could be felt by many.
But that wasn’t all...
Prior to assuming command of the Department of Defense Armed Forces Entertainment Office in 2010, Kathleen Weatherspoon was like so many in our military, she bounced around the country with assignments ranging from the frozen air fields of Michigan and Alaska to the scorching tarmac’s of Texas. It wasn’t until 2004, that Weatherspoon found herself in Delaware. She’d been given command of the 436th Service Squadron, Dover AFB, Dover Delaware, an assignment that she would hold for two years, an assignment that would leave her with one of the highest officer evaluations in the air bases history, an assignment that had her working all hours of the day and night escorting our fallen heroes off of transport planes...
For those that aren't aware, Dover Air Force Base, among other things is our countries primary entry point for fallen heroes. As 2004 rolled into 2006, Major Kathleen Weatherspoon along with members of Patriot Flight Details would make the long walk from the terminal to the freshly arriving transport planes, planes whose cargo bays so use to carrying everything from troops to tanks would instead be bringing home our fallen heroes.
The Major (at the time) would find herself at the head of the marching detail along side Chaplin David K. Sparks, who now 9 years later would fondly recall through his opening remarks at today's promotion ceremony the many ‘walks’ the two had performed for our nation. “As I recall you never really used up any of your leave time during those two years...” said Chaplin Sparks, eluding to the sacrifices that Weatherspoon had made during that assignment to ensure that each and every hero that came home to rest, did so with the highest traditions of honor afforded by Weatherspoon's details. “Here was this Major, doing the work of a Colonel, work that was far beyond her years of service and there was simply no one better at the task then Kathleen” he added before leading the group in prayer.
For American300 the day, the location and the United States Airforce officers promotion marked the end of a 2 week journey that showcased some of our countries bravest and best from the western community. With Pro Bareback Rider Kaycee Feild, World Champion Annie Bianco, Ms Rodeo America and Wrangler National Patriot, Country Music Artist and TV host Lucas Hoge, Wrangler senior advisor Jeff Chadwick along with MSGT George Roach of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard all back 'home' , Armed Forces Entertainment Wrangler National Patriot team leader Robi Powers, found himself sitting in the front row of this very special promotion ceremony. " I hadn't been back from the middle east more then 15 hours when I found myself in this hollowed hall, siting next to one of the highest ranking officials in the United States Air Force, watching my military 'boss' get pinned a full colonel" said Powers " I hadn't paid any attention to where the ceremony was taking place, Colonel Ed Shock (former Chief Armed Forces Entertainment) had me crash at his house when I got in last night from Transit Station Manas - Kyrgyzstan
When I walked into the Hall of Heroes... all I could hear were the lyrics to Lucas Hoge's song 'Medal of Honor'... I didn't even try to get it out of my head throughout the ceremony.
Join us in Nashville, TN the birthplace of Country Music and the site of the 2011 Country Music Association Fanfest (CMA FanFest11) on CMA's opening night, Thursday June 9th at the famous BB Kings Restaurant, in downtown Nashville, for a special ‘Medal of Honor Home Coming Party and Performance’ by Lucas Hoge. American300's Robi Powers will be on hand to emcee the evenings concert and attendees will have a chance to see the one and only 'Medal of Honor Guitar' that Hoge played throughout the Wrangler National Patriot Tour in the Middle East earlier this week. The guitar has been signed by hundreds of our nations finest, our Heroes and while we can't wear the Medal of Honor on our chest, we can feel it in our heart... just as the lyrics suggest. Come wear it on your chest in Nashville this Thursday night... you'll be glad you did and you'll be the first in a long list of millions who will see and hear this amazing song over the months to come.
For information on Thursday's Concert, free to the public please visit:
For information on the nonprofit American300 and the all volunteer staff of Americans that is attempting to raise the bar on resiliency for our troops visit: www.American300.org
LUCAS HOGE AND THE MEDAL OF HONOR CONCERT
The Medal Of Honor guitar has now traveled half way across the world bringing it's message of thanks, appreciation and love. The MOH guitar was donated to Lucas Hoge, our Wrangler National Patriot cowboy, country singer and Animal Planet host specifically for this tour. Acepro Guitars, owner Brian Crabb was delighted to be able to be a part of something he loves...our troops and a message of thanks! The guitar was hand painted by Jon Stewart, an extremely talented artist who saw Lucas's vision and brought it to a reality. "I had always wanted to paint a guitar with a representation of our military and the song that I wrote (with my wife Laura Lynn and best friend Corey Barker) honoring them.
The guitars first stop was Pueblo, Colorado where Lucas was asked to sing for the Dedication of Home of The Heroes Memorial and Walk of Valor and a special event: Center for American Values Salvatore Giunta Portrait Unveiling. The most recent Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, DrewDix and Pete Lemon were all present and signed the guitar. Lucas took the guitar and began having troops sign it and now the guitar is covered in signatures of our nations finest men and women.
On June 9th, 2011 the guitar will be in Nashville, TN for a special performance.
"This press conference and concert set in downtown Nashville on the opening night of CMA Fanfest is going to bring the Middle East Wrangler Tour and our Troops mission and greatness to hundreds of thousands of Americans " says Robi Powers, founding member of American300, who will be with Lucas on Thursday night " I can't think of a better way to officially close out this years Armed Forces Entertainment Wrangler Tour, then with Lucas singing his song 'Medal of Honor' in the birthplace of country music".
"I have had the great honor and privilege of meeting Kaycee Feilds, Maegan Redley, Annie Bianco-Ellett, Jeff Chadwick and traveling with them and Robi Powers, our fearless leader, through this amazing adventure with Wrangler National Patriot tour. These cowboys and girls, are wonderful and the trip only got better when we got to put our arms around our military and say Thank you! This guitar has seen a lot of things and is now signed by the bravest people I will ever know and now I get to share it with Nashville and the country music fans of CMA Fest", Lucas said.
BB Kings on Broadway will set the stage, lights and sound for a special night with Lucas Hoge, host MC, Robi Powers, and special guests from Wrangler. True Country TV (GOTV Networks) will be on site to film the event.
Master Sargent Gravatt looks across a nearly 14,000 foot long runway, it’s mid morning here at Transit Station Manas, Kyrgyzstan. Military and commercial airlines have been landing and taking off on the hour, throughout the morning. The operational tempo of the flight line that Gravatt along with fellow 376 EAW/SE team member Master Sargent Smith help oversee is a mix of military precision and five ring circus act. Military and commercial aircraft come and go in a choreographed production that requires constant hyper vigilance “ I can tell you that we’ve never had one of our Air Traffic Controllers fall asleep on the job.” says Gravatt, who comes to this mountainous region from Scott Air Base in Illinois. “We’ve got the warplanes and commercial airlines covered and coordinated, what we can’t control from the ‘Tower’ are the other birds that call this place home” referring to the population of resident and transient native crows and other species.
Stephen Farrell, a worker with Phoenix Bird Services based in the United Kingdom is a soft spoken predator bird expert charged with assisting the Transit Center with repelling the various species of feathered friends in a manner that is both effective and resilient. “ You can drive down our runway with a scatter gun, scaring the birds away every hour, but they’ll be right back” says Smith, assigned here from Eglin Air Base in Florida. “ To keep the birds away, we use predator birds, which we’ve found to be the absolute most effective. Mr Farrell’s “Jet” a magnificent young hawk receives clearance to take off on soaring missions from the very Air Traffic Control Tower that releases thousands of jet fueled birds into the air every year.
In the high stakes high tech world of counter terrorism fighting the sight of ‘Jet’ soaring around MTS conjures up thoughts of Castles and Falconers performing for kings. “Stephen had Jet swoop down and land right on my hand, now that’s cool, I’ve never been that close to a Hawk before.” said Kaycee Feild, a top ranked pro rodeo cowboy who is visiting Manas TS as part of the DoD Armed Forces Entertainment Wrangler National Patriot Tour. “ We’ve been flying around this region thanking troops for all they do to protect our freedoms and make America the greatest country in the World, pretty darn cool to be able to add ‘Jet’ to the long list of behind the scenes service members, who protect, fight and serve our nation.”
AMERICAN300 BRINGING 'AMERICA'S AMBASSADOR OF CANINE CARE' TO THE MIDDLE EAST
American troops may be starting to come home this summer, but more dogs are going in. In 2007, the Marines began a pilot program in Afghanistan with nine bomb-sniffing dogs, a number that has grown to 350 and is expected to reach nearly 650 by the end of the year.
There are an estimate 2700 war dog teams in the military and about 700 are in the Middle East. These amazing dogs are trained for patrol, search, explosive detection and apprehension. Our Wrangler National Patriot Team is spending time with these dogs, learning how the handler and dog work as a team. "Canine service members and their handlers fall into such a unique category of resiliency "says Robi Powers, founding member of American300", you have to take care of both the dog and the handler as a team and individually in order to provide any real benefit to either". "One of the biggest mistakes supporters can make is in addressing the dogs or handlers individually, says Powers, it'd be like thanking the Colonel through Majors without caring about the Sargent Majors and Tops, that's just not gonna happen on an American300 resiliency tour."
Robi knew bringing Lucas Hoge on the Wrangler National Patriot tour was a perfect fit, knowing he wanted to shed more light on our War Dogs. American300 is focused on unique opportunities and when we can bring over an animal support celebrity like Lucas Hoge it's a win win or both us and them.
"Being around these world class Wrangler cowboys and girls has been amazing, Wrangler is first class and allowing us to come here and give away fun Wrangler gifts, having troops sign the Wrangler National Patriot Flag and the best part, making new friends, with our troops, has been so rewarding" Along with hoedowns and roping chairs, Wrangler style, Lucas has been spending time with various Canine units on several different bases. Lucas has always had a love of dogs and when Animal Planet asked him to be a part of the "Last Chance Highway" 8 part series last summer, Lucas jumped at the chance. The show focused on not just rescuing dogs, but rehabilitation, finding the right fit between dog and their new forever home and then the actual transport, thousands of miles up north for the delivery and first meeting of dog and owner, face to face. "I witnessed hundreds of first time meetings and the joy, tears and smiles on the faces of the new owners when they held their new dog in their arms for the first time was priceless and a bond that was swift and strong". "Now I am seeing another type of bond between handler and dog, and this bond is like no other I have ever seen", Lucas added.
"After spending the day running attack drills with the dogs, I learned of their Military War Dog Promise":
Military War Dog Promise
My eyes are your eyes to watch and protect you and yours.
My ears are your ears to hear and detect evil minds in the dark.
My nose is your nose to scent the invader of your domain.
And so you may live, my life is also yours
"It touches my heart and to see these dogs actually DO what you read above, it's truly memorizing to whiteness it first hand," says Lucas, now a spokesperson for Guardian Angles For Soldiers Pet. After working on the TV show, and with my love of our military, it was a perfect fit. Guardian Angles focuses on fostering pets of our military while they are on deployment over seas. This insures that their pet will be safe while they are gone. Unfortunately, some people don't have a family member or neighbor that can take care of their dog for 6 months to a year, this is when Guardian Angles steps in.
Corporal Liam Tasker was the 358th serviceman killed in the conflict while his dog Theo was the sixth British military hound to die in action in Iraq and Afghanistan. In life, they were united in their tireless work saving countless British soldiers in Afghanistan.
In death, they were united in tragedy.
Shortly after Lance Corporal Liam Tasker was killed in a firefight with the Taliban, his devoted Army search dog Theo suffered a seizure and passed away too. This is the type of bond that lives with our Canine Units everyday, these dogs have saved the lives of our service men and women and they too are soldiers. Lucas, America's Ambassador of Canine Care, was on sight, suited up and then taken down by the same dog that has sniffed out over 30 bombs, saving the lives of his handlers. "Although I was being attacked by him, I was smiling the whole time, seeing their strength, their desire to protect, their ability and technique and their love of their handler was something we don't get to whiteness every day". "I can't thank Wrangler enough for this experience and I hope I will get to join them next year as well. "Wrangler, American300, our War Dogs and most importantly our Troops go above and beyond and I want to show my appreciation when ever I can!"
The handlers and dogs work in the most extreme conditions, heat and cold, wind and and dust storms, they train everyday together and work side by side as a team, a team that is inspiring and what American300 tours are all about.
COWBOYS HIT THE COALITION HIGH COUNTRY IN THE MIDDLE EAST
'We are cleared for take off Cowboys" could be heard across all 68+ feet of the cargo area this morning on a US Air Force C17 as the four mighty Pratt and Whitney engines, each delivering over 40 thousand pounds of thrust came to full power. With a tail that towers 55' off the runway and the amazing power of those engines it, was only a matter of seconds before the 'Globemaster' lifted off and rocketed into the night sky. "Now that's what I call a Cowboy Cadillac" said Annie Bianco Ellett on her headset, as she witnessed first hand up in the cockpits jump seat the pure elegance of this state-of-art US Air Force heavy lifter.
Hours later with the sun peaking up over a rugged mountain range, the US Air Force had the Cowboys and Girls back on the ground in another country, another time zone, but with the same mission; find US Armed Forces Members and Rope in Resiliency. After stacking the teams protective body Armour, organizing the mounds of Wrangler give-a-ways and squaring away each others personal kits it was obvious to our military hosts at this Air Field that the Wrangler Team was a well organized touring group that worked as a team. "If it hadn't been for the Wrangler clothes logo'd up with Armed Forces Entertainment patches and Cowboy hats I would have sworn I was watching a infantry chalk PAX/TRANX" said a Army corporal, who like so many of America's young men and women was on his second deployment to this mountainous region.
"Accomplishing more before breakfast, then most people get done in a day" said Jeff Chadwick, manager of western events for the Wrangler Corporation while walking down a rocky path on the way to breakfast at a small tent that was chuck full of US Army Soldiers "Heck I'd say in a week is more like it." he added.
Today, there was a get up'n go in the teams movements and for good reason, in less then an hour... they'd be whisked up into these formidable mountains that surround this undisclosed forward operating base to a camp like so many that found it's name the, story of one of America's fallen heroes.
If he were to have spoken the words they would have been simple: grab and go gang, it's time to fly, but instead Wrangler National Patriot Tour team leader Robi Powers, who organized the team from both this year and last and who volunteers to lead these trips through his nonprofit American300 for Armed Forces Entertainment each month simply nodded his head, the Wrangler Cowboys, Girls and Country Music Star were no longer a loosely wrangled group of Americans, they'd become a band of brothers and sisters, they'd become family.
"I'm excited mixed with a little scared" said Maegan Ridley, Ms Wrangler National Patriot and former Ms Rodeo America to veteran tour goer and endorsee of the Wrangler National Patriot line Pro Kaycee Feild "look at what we're gonna fly over" she added to his ear as the two lead the team to the Blackhawks that would be their next ride. "I'm with ya on those mountains being big' said Kaycee, they look like all of the Wasatch's back home in Utah and then some, but these Army Blackhawk crews are amazing, last year we were in these things 3-4 times a day, for days on end and I've seen what they can do... you're gonna love it" he added with the soft reassurance that you'd expect to hear from a big brother.
With a safety briefing that lasted a minute and saddling up which took about the same it was the Army's turn to carry the 'cowboy hats' to their days final destination, but not without taking advantage of a live fire exercises for their door gunners along the way. "I wouldn't mess with us" said Master Sergeant Roach the teams public affairs temporary duty assignment videographer from the Pennsylvania Air National Guard as the UH60's eased off the power and made clear their intention to land.
"That was just beautiful" said Lucas Hoge as he helped unload the teams gear and move away from the pad. Once clear of the rotorwash he opened the lid to his custom AceProMedal of Honor guitar to ensure that it had made another journey unscathed and more importantly was ready to receive the tender loving care of pick and fingers, later this day on another small operating camp, in a land so far from his home of Nashville, TN " she's ready to sing and so am I" he added with the smile of a care giver, who knows the day will bring happiness to so many.
The Armed Forces Entertainment Wrangler National Patriot Tour has left its prints in so many countries, to be doing so in yet another foreign land should come as no surprise to our followers, what might however, is that for the first time the teams one and only World Champion would get her crack at learning exactly what goes into addressing a target, not with her usual custom pearl grip inlaid pistol, but through the high tech scope of a US Army issue M4. Outlaw Annie Bianco was to experience what hundreds of thousands of Army soldiers have; zeroing her weapon at close range and then engaging paper targets.
"Sgt Lamb was was such a great coach" said Annie, who, while a Champion with pistols, is a relative new comer to the world of military rifle marksmanship, despite having a brother who has been in the US Army for the majority of his adult life " I wish my brother could have seen Sgt Lamb take me through the drills this afternoon, I know he would have been proud... of both of us."
As sunset approached Sgt Lamb, a member of the Cav Scouts, commented on the sandblasting winds coming down onto the plateau "These mountains create their own weather... sunny and pleasant one hour, cloudy and 50 mph winds the next...it's the norm here."
With a Camp elevation that would make the city of Denver, Colorado smile, the Cowboys once again made ready their ropes, Wrangler 'thank you' gifts and one Medal of Honor Guitar for an evening of mile high country fun. "Look at who's here tonight" breathed Powers to the team as he pointed out to mountain warfare capable specialists from Italy, Spain and Slovenia, who were all drifting in on the various paths to the Camps newly finished commons area. "Heck there's even to British Army Specialists with us tonight, get ready for a NATO Coalition Forces Cowboy Coral gang"
And as if on cue, Lucas Hoge grab'd Medal of Honor the custom painted AcePro guitar and let her fill the thin air "they might not understand the lyrics completely, but I know they'll feel it in their hearts he whispered to Kaycee, and that they did!
Reach out to a friend and have them saddle up with us as the tour continues... from all of us 'over here' Good Nite
When George Furse wrote the song Tomorrow, for the play 'Annie' it's safe to say that he wasn't thinking about Memorial Day. " The sun'll come out....Tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow... they'll be sun" the song of an orphan looking on the 'bright side' took the world by storm and while not played or performed all the that often anymore, is still a song that most adults can whistle the tune to, belt out a chorus or two of. We at American300 want to remind all American's that today is a day of Remembrance, but that the sun will come out tomorrow. It's also a day that this year will be recognized by many on both the federal long weekend Monday....and the actual 31st day of May. Not to be confused with Armed Forces Day or Veterans Day, both of which are designated to honor and pay tribute to our current and past Armed Forces Members, Memorial Day was created to do just what it says - Memorialize or Commemorate our Fallen Service Members.
So over the next two days, we ask American300 supporters and so many more, to do exactly what the days title suggests. Take some time to think, reflect and don't be afraid to pray or take pause for them. If you do this you might just find that it's possible to " sweep away the cobwebs and the sorrow... till there's..." we wish we could say "none" but the reality is that there will always be a certain pain, hurt for many of us. It's how we manage it, work with it (not through it) that determines if we are able to continue living... the way our lost would have most likely wanted us to..... Be Great America... it's what they fought for....
Robi Powers and Major Jesse Stewart, co-founders American300 Foundation, for the Board, Staff and Advisory Groups - Our Volunteers. 30MAY11
The Wrangler National Patriot team landed at a remote isolated air base in the 'shadows of 20 thousand foot peaks' with beauty on the horizon and a US Air Force staff that greeted the team with smiles and open arms, it didn't take but seconds for the Team to realize that the beauty of the mountains was going to be surpassed by the professionalism of the staff here, in warming the spirits of the Team and the Troops that they'd come in contact with. With final cargo transferred from aircraft to ground transport, the Cowboys and girls we're whisked away to morning chow... local time was 0530.
After western omelets and dark cowboy coffee, the group was given a few hours 'off the trail' to shake the desert sand out of their gear and do some laundry. The next stop - hundreds of joint service (all branches of service) troops enjoying the camaraderie of a Western BBQ. Lead by a team of 'master chefs' a/k/a Chief Masters... out came the ropes, steer heads, Wrangler National Patriot Bandanas, Burgers and fun.
As soon as the last hamburger was wolfed down the Goodfather's of the Grill snatched up Annie Bianco Ellett and Maegan Ridley for a Team Photo. Not only had the Sr NCO's of the Base processed over a thousand burgers and brats through their Chuckwagon, but they'd nailed the final spike in the resiliency rail that puts leaders ever out in front of our new recruits in the 'gold rush' to keep our force strong and on the top spot.
'Spurs on' and 'knees dug' in was the attitude the Wrangler Cowboys and girls have for mission briefings, and the local command took the team for an extended 8 second ride through the details of this bases history, host nation partnership that no one wanted to end.
"We operate this base on a 'Need To Share' message" explained Captain Clyde and Major Katz, the Teams Command Briefing Staff from the Air Force, when explaining the role that the resident staff here plays in the larger sustainability mission. The base sources as many sustainability products locally and this key ingredient isn't lost on the host nation, in turn base commanders and local government officials here have developed a working relationship based on a level of trust that would make any Cowboy a World Champion... if they could just get their 'draw' to work with them in partnership the 'same' every weekend.
With 2 hours to spare after the briefing came to an end, Lucas Hoge the teams one and only country music star suggested that 'maybe' he, Kaycee Feilds and Robi could give a try at some archery practice (Lucas, had spotted a 3D archery range during a quick orientation drive the services staff had given the team after breakfast) No sooner were the words spoken then bows materialized and lines were drawn in the rocky dirt... Kaycee, Wing Commander Col. Sones and Major Roberts would represent the PRCA and Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, while Lucas, Robi Powers and Commander Col Zorzi would representing the Pro Bull Riders - PBR Tour.
Arrow after arrow flew and bulleyes fell to the PRCA Team who cleaned up in the 3 course contest 36 -19. With hat in hand, Lucas and Robi
along with Cok Zorzi congratulated the PRCA squad... and talk of a rematch mixed with the cool southerly breeze that had enveloped the base... dropping temperatures by more then 15 degrees, the result of the cooling effect that the snow topped mountains to the south have on this base each and every day of spring and summer.
With Kaycee belting out a Cowboys Champion Yehaaaaa all the way to the Morale Entertainment Center, the Cowboys reunited with World Champion Annie who along with Jeff and MSgt Roach the teams public affairs officer had bags already packed for the teams next tour stop deployment as well as the evenings 'Western 'Rocky' Mountain Hoe-down.
Jeff Chadwick gave the 'Chutes Open' let's go rodeo call and within seconds Troops had 'turned out' to the various fun activity zones throughout the 'arena'. Roping, talking, signing autographs and laughter all mixed into an act that would have entertained the most veteran western events fans. Topping it all off, Lucas Hoge lasso'd a squad of Marines fresh off the trails of war to sing his song "Medal of Honor" with him on the eve of Memorial Day (observed) here in the Middle East.
"This resiliency one on one troop 'tour' we do during the day, followed by evening Ground Hog Day Disposal (as Robi calls it) that we've got going on, is such a home run" said Jeff Chadwick, manager of Western Events for Wrangler Corporation " I just wish my boss, Joe (Hertz), our General Manager of Wrangler was here to see it, as a combat purple heart recipient of the Vietnam War... I think it would make his heart sing" added Chadwick.
The 'evening' came to a close with Troops and Cowboys eyes glued to the final 20 laps of the Indy500, which was being piped onto the base by Armed Forces Network, the Department of Defense godsend television service that allows troops to stay up to date with the latest happenings in the 'world'. As the race came to a close, cries of sorrow could be heard coming from the Troops, Robi Powers, the Armed Forces Entertainment Wrangler National Patriot Tour leader was smiling.... not as a result of Hildebrands demise, but from the quite comfort a team leader and founder of American300 gets from knowing that another day of successful resiliency minded troop touring was over... and that the Troops cries... where the result of witnessing the lose of a sporting event... not a fellow service member on this evening that had now become the morning of Memorial Day here in the Middle East.
Armed Forces Entertainment and local US Base personnel teamed up to give American300 more then ‘8 seconds’ of resiliency for troops serving at this small, isolated base that doesn’t even have a name. “We’ve been working with Armed Forces Entertainment’s staff for two years, developing a plan to take our tours to some of the most remote and isolated bases around the world” says Robi Powers, American300’s founding member and volunteer to both his nonprofit organization and Armed Forces Entertainment, over the past 48 hours that vision has come to fruition.”
Not only has American300 pushed for getting it’s resiliency oriented programming to remote bases, but they’ve also pushed for quality over quantity visits. “You can show up on a base and set up a autograph table in a dinning facility and have celebrities sign 500 autograph cards... quickly shake 500 hands, but where’s the true resiliency?" asks Powers “We worked with Armed Forces Entertainment to get the word out that our tours want to slow it down a bit, 'chill out', give our volunteer celebrity American Ambassadors of goodwill a chance to really connect.
Coming off just such a visit at a base in another part of the middle east the day before, fingers were crossed that today's Base Staff would deliver on this new approach to troop touring. After 9 hours in the blazing sun with temps in the 100's - sharing words of encouragement, thanks and personal stories with behind the scenes troops, The Wrangler Team and it's members; Jeff Chadwick, Annie Bianco Ellet, Lucas Hoge, Kaycee Feild, Maegan Ridley and MSgt George Roach found themselves a little sunburned but a lot happy. The result of a day spent with our hero service members that wouldn't be able to make it to the evenings base wide Hoe-down.
“I’ve got a friend that can never get out of work to come watch me compete each year at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas” says Feild adding “this bases staff had us spending quality time with a pile of folks who wouldn’t be able to be here tonight.. that’s as cool as it gets."
From Canine Handlers and their service dogs to Security Forces guard shacks, the Wrangler Pro’s and Country Music Artist traveled around the base... not just shaking hands and quickly handing out autograph cards, but taking the time to talk, share and get to know our nations heroes. “The staff on this air base, like the one we just came from, understands the importance of allowing a connection to occur” said Lucas Hoge, “sure there are going to be those times when all I have time for is a quick autograph or hand shake with my fans on the country music stages of America, but that's not how I or my colleagues build our foundation of support, it’s built on friendships... and today I made one heck of a lot of friends."
We’ve always said, the road to true US Armed Forces Troop Resiliency starts - One Service Member at a time... we believe that if you design programming that supports this basic theory... you get the desired outcome: A Stronger, Healthier Force... and that includes our Families.” says Major Jesse Stewart a highly decorated combat infantry officer and founding member of American300, adding “we’ve got to be strategic in dealing with resiliency, the days of thinking tactically on this subject are long gone in my humble opinion.”
After a long day of touring the base in triple digit heat, the sun finally set bringing with it cooler temperatures and an opportunity for the Wrangler National Patriot Team to kick back and chill out with hundreds of troops.. (who weren’t on duty) beating back the ‘ground hog day syndrome, a term that American300 and others involved in bringing stateside programming to the troops use for giving the troops something they don’t always get.
“When you can have an event that breaks the same old...(stuff) syndrome, you’re helping the troops out.” says a Army Veteran who works at this isolated base as a civilian contractor. “I served my 20 years, and I’ve seen it all...what this group brought to the troops today was simply awesome...I know I’ll remember the day for a long time.”
RIDING A MESSAGE OF WESTERN APPRECIATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST
For centuries Cowboys have had to deal with the devastation that can be wrecked on their livestock and land by an errant spark, haystack fire or worse yet a raging forest fire rolling across their land. Today on a US Air Base in the middle east, surrounded by rock and sand it wasn’t forest fires that were being spoken of, but the real life and death risks of what fire can potentially do to our
men and women that serve on one of our countries most secure Air Bases in the world. Instead of the snap and pop of a ponderosa pine going up in a ball of flames, the words of our nations finest firefighters were heard, hanging in a early morning air, thick with the smell of jet exhaust fumes. The words were of suppression. “I know how hard I train to be a professional rider on the PRCA and these guys are just total hardcore.” said Kaycee Feild, “ I know they could learn how to ride a rig’n setup, I’m not so sure I could ever do their job.” he added.
After exchanging stories and seeing to it, that these heroes got their names on the Wrangler National Patriot National Finals Rodeo Performance Flag, it was time to take the cowboys, girls and firefighters out for a group photo session. Jeff Chadwick, Wranglers manager of western events took advantage of the groups, climbing up onto the front of one of the fire trucks to share with this group of heroes the thanks and admiration of a grateful community. “I want to thank you on behalf of Wrangler and VFjeanswear along with our many partners that have supported this second annual tour. I also want you all to know that the entire western community is rallying around the Wrangler National Patriot Tour... the appreciation I’m speaking of comes from millions of Americans who, as a family, represent the western industries community.”
Firefighters weren’t the only ones to learn a thing or two about the western communities support for our service members. Our Cowboys were able to convey this message of support to our behind the scenes mechanics and maintenance staff
members, the troops that ensure that what goes up into the skies around the World, operates flawlessly, bringing America’s flight crews home safely from the hundreds of thousands of missions flown each year. “I can relate to what these maintenance workers do” said World Champion Mounted Shooting Cowgirl Annie Bianco Ellett adding “ in my sport the competitors are also the rig haulers, animal care givers and our pistols don’t shoot straight without daily love, care and upkeep... if these guys don’t perform their jobs, the wheels come off the bus.”
How our US Air Force keeps up and out in front was explained in detail by the base command during a one hour multi-media presentation lead by one of the wings vice commanders. From how many sorties launch into the wild blue yonder each year to base command structure, missions, logistics and security, our Cowboys and girls took in the details of daily operations down to the smallest detail. “When you take into account the constant sorties, second in the World most secure base status and then look at what it takes to keep that going... well, it kinda leaves you speechless” added Annie.
Lucas Hoge the teams only music artist, along with Armed Forces Entertainment public affairs embed Master Sergeant George Roach, Pennsylvania Air National Guard found themselves learning from the only four legged service members on the base with a stop at the security forces canine unit. Hoge, one of the hosts of Discovery Channels Animal Planet show ‘Last Chance Highway’ has had a love for dogs since his earliest childhood memories. “I got to spend nearly the entire morning with MSgt Roach and our nations finest paws” a smiling Hoge said, adding “heat is a killer and the way our Canine Service Handlers work with our nations top dogs on duty in these conditions is amazing... I’d love to come over and spend a month traveling from base to base showcasing these patriots efforts for America, the level of professionalism, combined with caregiving, partnering has to be witnessed... it’s a story of trust and teamwork that is very powerful.”
With temperatures jumping into the triple digits the team could be seen walking across a desert scape, their white cattlemen’s creased cowboy hats standing in stark contrast to their desert surrounds and ultimately against the digital camouflage of our US Army members who maintain the bases Patriot Missile Defense System. After a quick over view by the units commander, the team struck out on foot to shake hands and share as many thank you’s as possible with our service members...keeping a promise made to the millions of western fans who share in their support for our troops. “I’m so grateful to Armed Forces Entertainment and American300 Warrior Tours for allowing us to be here, by capturing moments of thanks and appreciation in film and photography we're able to share America's Heroes with America’s Western Community and the nation as a whole.” said Chadwick adding - “ No matter where we go next, who we meet, share stories with, one thing is certain these US Air Force and Army members will be in our thoughts and prayers forever”