Update from the Middle East – Military Tribute Tour

Military Tribute Tour 072114-10What An Experience So Far! We were shot at in our Chinook helicopter and returned machine gun fire on our way to an outlying FOB (Forward Operating Base). We have toured a Patriot Missile Battery to see how our Army keeps the peace and provides security to Bahrain and United Arab Emirates in the gulf, was given a hand made bracelet by Chris, the leader of the Navy EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal Specialist) assigned to Seal Team 8, who is clearly one of the coolest and baddest dudes I have ever met, and then given a flag that was flown over Fendy FOB Jalalabad, Afghanistan on July 4th 2014!!! (Can’t wait to frame it and hang it on my Wall of Fame!) But… now I am ahead of myself!

Our tour took us first to Bahrain where we performed our “Evening of Music, Comedy and Motivational Theater” at three different bases – changing up our show content to accommodate the differences in each audience as we went. In one audience at NSA and the headquarters of the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, we had an amalgamation of military leaders with their spouses and small children, mixed in with screaming teeny-bopper female fans who had a mad crush on David Archuleta!

Prior to us starting our third show to a few hundred sailors, airmen, and soldiers in the Base theater, I was inspired by a Memorial Wall of Fame at the back of the room that displayed significant photos from World War II. Tears filled my eyes as I reminisced on the life and legacy of leadership that my dad’s cousin Mervin S. Bennion left behind as a Naval Officer. He is a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor who served as the Commanding Officer of the USS West Virginia, which was attacked and sunk at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Gallantly fighting along side his fellow sailors until his last breath, Mervin was killed on his ship the day before he was to return to his family waiting for him in Seattle.Military Tribute Tour 072114-5

The lesson: Yes, our moms and dads and brothers and sisters who wear the uniform serve our country, and fight to defend our freedom and Constitution. But every member of a military family who does not wear a uniform equally serves our country and unselfishly sacrifices to give us our spectacular way of life. Let us strengthen our personal resolve to serve our military families and look out for their children, especially when mom or dad is deployed.

With the President of the United States and his Senators and House Legislators voting for “sequestration,” which was a flat 10% mandatory cut across our U.S. military budget, there is a call for military force reduction, manpower renovation and mission capability restructuring. This means successful and proven weapons systems and the assets that deliver them are being are being sent to the bone yard. Necessary flying houMilitary Tribute Tour 072114-8rs that are required to keep our pilots certified and totally prepared for combat have been cut back. And consequently, there is now an ongoing, continuous invitation to thousands of our airmen, soldiers, marines and sailors to separate from the military and end their careers – either voluntary or mandated. Needless to say, there is rampant trepidation and uncertainty among the troops regarding the security and longevity of their military careers, which they assumed would last at least twenty years!

Can you see why I asked David Archuleta to include in his song sets the powerful, healing ballads, “Everybody Hurts Sometime,” “Stand By Me,” and “Bridge Over Troubled Waters?”

Write your Congressman and Congresswoman and make sure they vote to support our military leaders in everything they need to protect our country, execute waMilitary Tribute Tour 072114-11r when required, and take of the military families while they do!

This is also why part of my message on our tour program is to challenge our troops to take their attitudes, knowledge, skill sets and talents to the next level that they may sustain their military careers, or if necessary, confidently transfer their unique value proposition from military life into a civilian job opportunity. Guaranteed, if every employer in the world could be with me on this Military Tribute Tour to see what our brave and extraordinary troops do day in and day out, each of them would surely hire a vet! The military mindset fully comprehends and lives by the core values of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Service Before Self, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage, which allows them to create a culture of excellence, perform under pressure, make crucial decisions on the fly, plan their work and work their plan, execute on a precise timeline, and inspire teamwork with a belief in something larger than themselves!Military Tribute Tour 072114-13

Between our three performances in Bahrain we visited the famous “Tree of Life” – a large, tall 600 year old tree, with twisted petrified looking branches covered with green leaves – growing out of the sand in the middle of a desolate desert landscape with no other living thing in sight for as far as the eye could see. The life lesson metaphors were oozing to be discussed including “grow where you are planted – no matter where you go, there you are; when your roots are deep and strong you can withstand harsh environments and still become everything you were born to be!”