Today was different. I usually fly somewhere a couple of times every week, adding 175,000 miles to my frequent flyer programs each and every year for the past twenty-five years. But today was different. I have always approached every corporate and trade association engagement with conscientious preparation, intensity and commitment to connect with their people in a customized speech on their theme. But today was different. I was heading out to speak to our brave combat troops in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Ethiopia and Djibouti – an eighteen day tour performing on major bases to thousands, and to small groups of 75 at outlying FOBs (Forward Operating Bases).
In the past, whenever I’ve been given this sacred privilege to fire up our military troops, I have been a one-man show, traveling with a three star general and an entourage of security and VIP assistants. But today I was traveling into harms way with no security and taking three friends with me: David Archuleta, Dean Kaelin and Jason Hewlett. Yes it is my tour – I was asked by Armed Forces Entertainment to put it together. It is called the Military Tribute Tour: An Evening of Music, Comedy and Motivational Theater. David is a Sony Music Recording Artist – an American Idol super star finalist who wowed millions of viewers every time he sang. He could sing the phone book and bring a man to tears! Dean is the most incredibly talented musician on the planet and is David’s musical director, guitar and piano player on tour. Jason is the most unique comedian/entertainer I have ever known.
I proudly boast it is my tour, but today at the airport I sensed a feeling of responsibility, mutual respect, support, and shared ownership of the tour from not only my three fellow performers, but from their families. We were going to do something that all of us have done thousands of times, but today there was a real sense of fear and uncertainty that elevated our awareness of the significance of what we were about to engage in. And what we were feeling is only a small fraction of what a soldier, marine, airmen and sailor and their families go through when they are deployed. Suddenly, today at the airport, each of us realized it is more than cliche’ to say, ‘freedom isn’t free; America-Land of the Free, Because of the Brave.’
Volunteering during a time of war, being willing to lay their lives on the line, giving it everything they’ve got when less would be sufficient, with no days off for sickness or anxiety, leaving their families wondering if they will return safely. Holy cow! How dare us take our freedom for granted! How dare us refuse to come to work early and stay late unless we are paid over time. How dare us not take advantage of our opportunities to personally improve and grow our businesses to better America’s economy. How dare us not vote in every political election to make sure we get honest, responsible, competent, experienced leaders in office who are just as brave and courageous as our military service men and women and willing to make hard choices and stand up for what is right!
Our 90-minute performance is in a Variety show format with me serving as the Master of Ceremonies. I begin the show with a humorous monologue and an entertaining inspirational story that sets the tone for David Archuleta to come on stage and sing, “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” I then introduce funny man Jason Hewlett who does his impressions of the Raptor, Rock and Roll Band Journey, and his experience at the dentist learning to pull his crazy faces. This rotation is repeated with me addressing the issues of resiliency, PTSD, divorce, sexual assault, substance abuse and suicide prevention.
Because I serve with General Mark Welsh – Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, on his National Civic Leaders Board, I am privy to sensitive information and issues that we as civilians can help the military address. For example, in 2013, we had 98 suicides in the Air Force, and triple that in the Army and Marine Corps.
Yes, I deal with these issues in a tactful, entertaining way, but the inspirational music and comic relief provided by David and Jason is necessary and awesome to complete our total mission and long-range purpose of this tour! On the second rotation I address the significance of example and walking on higher ground, followed by David’s performance of his hit single, “Crush,” and his version of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Jason then breaks into his impressions of Michael Jackson, Guns and Roses, Lady Gaga and Led Zepplin. And the rotation continues until David concludes our show by singing, “Hero” and “Bring Him Home, ” with an encore of “Be Still My Soul.” Seriously, I believe we are going to touch some lives forever!
As we do our best to pay tribute to our military troops and their families with 18 up close and personal thank you shows in five countries, may I challenge you to also do what you can to elevate your show of support to our troops and their families at home and a broad. God bless them. God bless America!
Dan Clark, an American Patriot