American Idol super star David Archuleta, David’s musical director Dean Kaelin, celebrity impressionist Jason Hewlett, and I departed Salt Lake City on July 8 with a personal commitment to entertain, inspire and support our troops, engulfed in family fear that something horrible could happen. The tour is over and we returned safely on July 25.
The reality is that NOTHING horrible happened. In eighteen days I came to fully understand that nothing happens to us – everything happens for us, for our good, to give us experience, that we may grow as human beings and deepen our understanding that it’s not what happens that defines us, but what we do with what happens that makes us who we are! Clearly I came home as an eye witness to the motivational fact, that we become the average of the five people we associate with the most; and it is not enough to say I will do my best – I must succeed in doing that which is necessary!
Yes, we were in harms way – everyone is in a combat zone. There is evil lurking everywhere. But you don’t realize it until a bad guy appears, or someone shoots at you in a helicopter, or you hear the PA system announce, “incoming,” or an IED explodes and kills your battle buddy. This also applies to character, class, work ethic and commitment to being part of something larger than yourself. You see, in a deployed environment and military combat zone, there is Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage, and commitment to Excellence In All You Do also lurking everywhere. But the Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen don’t realize it until someone like me, a civilian from outside this culture of excellence, appears and reminds them of how unique and special and incredibly amazing they are.
Everyday our military men and women in a deployed environment dress the same, eat together, oftentimes sleep in the same tent or room and get ready in the morning together, and go to their job with the same expectation and work ethic to do their job to the best of their ability, even if they don’t love their boss, or if the weather conditions are brutal. They put in ten to twelve hour workdays and are always there for each other. And because they are involved in something larger than themselves they genuinely feel needed, which translates into a personal desire to become better today than they were yesterday, which transposes into participating in activities on the base that sustain their own morale and encouraging everybody around them to do the same. THIS IS WHAT THE DEPLOYED MILITARY CULTURE OF EXCELLENCE ENVIRONMENT IS ABOUT, AND WHY AFTER HAVING BEEN IMMERSED IN IT FOR EIGHTEEN DAYS, I RETURNED TO AMERICA A BETTER MAN, A BETTER HUSBAND, A BETTER FATHER, A BETTER FRIEND, A BETTER NEIGHBOR, A BETTER COWORKER, A BETTER AMERICAN!
In every show I had stated that if we can think, laugh and cry all in the same day, that is a heck of a day. And if we can think and laugh and cry in the same show, that is a heck of a show! In humility, I believe we delivered on this promise in every performance! There are a lot of super stars who can sing and many headlining comedians who can make us laugh. But with all due respect, our mix of music, laughter and the inspirational spoken word brought a special spirit to each performance that allowed the service men and women and contractors in attendance to connect with us in a deeper, more long lasting, meaningful, memorable way! Consequently we were given a special coin referred to in the military as a “RMO” – Round Metal Object, presented only by a military commanding officer or commanding NCO to someone who exemplifies the core values of his/her branch of service and has significantly helped the military in its mission.
We flew First Class commercial carrier on Delta Airlines from Salt Lake to Atlanta, to Amsterdam, KLM to Abu Dhabi, to Bahrain. Gulf Air from Bahrain to Kuwait. Kuwait to Afghanistan on Military Air, back to Kuwait on Military Air, to Addis Ababa Ethiopia on Ethiopian Airlines, on to Djibouti. From Djibouti on Ethiopian Airlines to Addis Ababa, onto Paris France, concluding our trip on Delta Airlines from Paris non-stop to Salt Lake.
Ironically, flying First Class provided the perfect contrast to the living and traveling conditions of our troops, which resulted in the unintended consequences of learning a powerful life lesson. Yes, our plane tickets were expensive and everybody sitting in the first class section enjoyed first class legroom, accommodations and received first class service. However, you can’t buy class! Many of the passengers riding in first class thought they were classy because of their money and job title, but most could not hold a candle to the military leaders I met on this trip to the war zone. First Class is subscribing to and living by the Core Values of the United States military, which incidentally ring true to the teachings I received as a Boy Scout that I should be Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent.
THE HELLO TO GOODBYE OVERVIEW OF OUR 18 DAY TOUR:
I BELIEVED I WAS GOING TO INSPIRE THE TROOPS, WHEN IN ALL REALITY THEY INSPIRED ME!
- In every audience, at every location there was at least one person who had missed a significant event in a family member’s life. One young man stood and announced that his first child, a new little baby boy, had been born that morning. Another single mom broke down explaining that she had been away from her eight year old daughter’s birthday that day and was deployed for a total of 179 days. To help her little girl keep track of the time, she had constructed a paper chain with exactly 179 links all hooked together so every morning her daughter could tear one link away that would shorten the chain and give her a visual of how much longer they would be a part. Another father shed an affectionate tear as he had missed all three of his son’s high school graduations. Several of the troops had been allowed to travel home for the funeral of their moms and dads, but had to immediately return to the war. Holy cow! The sacrifices our troops are willing to make on our behalf are mind-boggling. Let us never forget the price of freedom!!
- We performed three times on three Navy bases in Bahrain. Service men and women, contractors, and their children were present. I experienced the headquarters of the mighty 5th Fleet, toured a Patriot Missile Battery (where we performed for twenty-five soldiers in a small intimate lunch room in an extraordinary intimate setting, where we were so close and personal that our exchange of expressions and non-verbal communication hit an all-time high), and in between our performances caught some needed shade under Bahrain’s legendary Tree of Life. That night at about 9:30 pm we hosted a “fireside chat” at a local chapel with approximately two hundred people in attendance, some of whom drove across the bridge from Saudi Arabia to join in our Music and the Spoken Word. It was an exceptionally spiritual experience for all who attended.
- The next morning we flew commercial carrier to Kuwait City Airport on Bahrain’s national airline Gulf Air, where we were picked up by Joe and his Black Water security team of seven specially trained men, sporting the stereo typical sunglasses and one earphone in their ears for instant com, and taken away in three SUVs, driving us fast and furious in tight formation never allowing any vehicles to enter our little convoy on our way to Ali Al Salem Base. Our quarters were in Building 372, which is a DV apartment setting with a shared common area living room, kitchen, washer and dryer where each of us had our own bedroom and bathroom. It was across the street from the swimming pool and accompanying snow-cone shop, close to the amazing fitness center, which I twice took advantage of, and the perfect place to get out of the 130-degree blistering furnace like heat that was absolutely no different than having a hot blow dryer turned up to its fastest speed and held in your face at one inch a way!
- One thing for sure – the military feeds our troops and then feeds them some more. And the mess hall is the social gathering place on base with televisions broadcasting the news and sports. The first time I entered I was struck by how many Marines were on base. I had spoken here in 2005 and it was primarily an Air Force/Army base. But now there were over 800 Marines staying in their own tent city. And these were not your typical fighting infantrymen. Every one of them was extremely buffed and looked and acted tougher than the rest of the troops. When I asked what the deal was a Marine Colonel explained they were a “MEW” – Marine Expeditionary Force attached to a Navy battleship that had just come a shore. The Marines had been at sea, stuck on this ship for three months and all they did was eat and exercise and lift weights and practice their drills and eat and exercise and lift every day for the last ninety days. On top of that these ultimate warriors had been caged up for three months waiting to fight. Yes, they had a right and a good reason to give one word answers when I talked to them, and their muscles had gotten so large that of course they had to strut when they walked. Man oh man am I glad I am on their side! When it comes to a well prepared and exceptionally trained fighting force, these men and women are definitely the baddest of the bad!!
- After we got settled in our DV quarters, we conducted a non-denominational spiritual service in the chapel for anyone who was interested in some fellowship. About 50 friends of many faiths attended where we sang and spoke about things of the spirit. It was an awesome emotional, uplifting experience for all who attended.
- That night we presented our Evening of Music, Comedy and Motivational Theater for a packed house in the base theater with standing room only. All 50 who had attended the chapel service also attended our show and the 400 people, including the Base Commanders, were actually blown away as they had no idea what to expect from a “music and the spoken word” format. The three Colonels went on video record as saying this is the best and most significant show they have seen over their ten years and multiple deployments in the AOR (Area of Responsibility).
- After the show we took a three hour flight in a C-17 from Ali Base to Bagram Base in Afghanistan. I arranged for David and I to sit in the cockpit where we were issued our own headsets to tune into the cockpit communication and listen to the bantering of pilots flying all over the sky that night. David and I put on helmets equipped with “NVGs” – Night Vision Goggles where we could see movement on the ground, especially as we flew up the coast of Iran, over Pakistan to Afghanistan. When we landed in Bagram we were met by the lovely, amazing, well organized and extremely passionate Elisa Weaver, who is the MWR Coordinator of all entertainment that comes in and out of Afghanistan. On the second day we were joined by her counterpart Army Sergeant First Class David Goins, and the two of them escorted us for the next six days to all four locations in Afghanistan.
We stayed in the DV quarters right across the street from the highly fortified and very private compound where Navy Seal Team Six assembled, prepared and executed their mission to kill Osama Bin Laden. There was an undeniable feeling and spirit that hovered over that campsite that oozed of extreme patriotism, character, discipline, guts, and ultimate macho manhood. I am in total awe of these men, and currently know of no man who could have been a Navy Seal except the two modern day, real life super heroes I have had the privilege and honor of hanging out with: Marcus Lutrell (The Lone Survivor) and Lieutenant Ben in an undisclosed location later on this trip.
- With all due respect to every other serviceman and service woman whom I met during this eighteen day tour, spending time with a Navy Seal and having him give me the Seal patch off his uniform brought me to tears. I gave him a Live Lucky hat and “coined” him with my Frank Clawson designed “Put On The Whole Armor Of God” RMO that highlights the Bible verses in Ephesians 6, with a challenge at the bottom of the coin that says “Pray Always,” flanked by two shields that frame the letters “RWH” – Return With Honor. I asked Ben if he was religious and with his reply of, “not really,” I told him the coin would serve him as a highbred good luck charm until he had a spiritual experience that would bring him to believe in the total message of the coin. The coin would then become the reminded and challenge it is intended to be. You see, whenever I meet someone who claims they don’t believe in God, I always respond with the question, “What version of God is it that you don’t believe in?” There are so many, and perhaps your concept of God is not comprehensible and worth worshiping or praying to! We shook hands and hugged goodbye with the promise to keep in touch. What a Stud!!!!! May God watch over Ben and bring him and every other service man and service woman home safely to a hero’s welcome!
- On this first day in Afghanistan we performed for the prison guards at Sabula Harrison Prison, who watch and monitor the most violent of the enemy combatants – men who want to kill Americans at every chance they get – who because of their fanatical religious beliefs honor death more than life. Because these soldiers are isolated in the prison located on the far side of the base, they seldom get a break and the touring performers are not likely to be invited to their job site. For this reason, the show was an incredible experience for all of us as these men and women appreciated us more than any other audience. They laughed harder, thought deeper, and were moved by the music in a much more profound way, which resulted in a tear-filled standing ovation. I pulled some strings and got an opportunity to tour the prison yard, climb the tower and see the total prison complex of fields, gardens and walkways. For The Record – the prisoners live better in our custody than they ever would outside the prison. They have plenty of nutritious food, clothing, shelter, liberty to pray and read and exercise and work if they desire. AND, the plan as we minimize our presence in Afghanistan, is to transfer these prisoners into the custody of their home countries with the explicit contractual commitment that their home governments give them fair and due process of law with full human rights granted under the laws and traditions of their homeland. 900 Afghan prisoners have already been released into the Afghan prison system to continue their detainment, be tried, and either released or incarcerated for life. This was the perfect introduction to Afghanistan and the more than perfect first impression for Elisa to experience the power and unique difference our program offers!
- The next morning we boarded a Chinook Helicopter with an escorting “wingman” helicopter flying shotgun all the way to an outlying FOB (Forward Operating Base) called FOB TB Airborne. On the way, we were shot at from the ground. The Chinook pilot suddenly and radically dipped to the right to avoid the ground fire and give the side gunner the opportunity for him to return fire. He shot back for about ten seconds until the pilot dipped to the left where that side machine gunner blasted away at the bad guys. What a hoot! Apparently they had had some more contact with the enemy that day because on our return flight to Bagram they had also mounted and manned a third machine gun in the rear.
- At FOB TB Airborne we were greeted by two big men wearing blue Stetson Calvary hats, with one wearing his spurs. They were proud leaders of the US Army 3rd Calvary, 3rd Squadron, “Brave Rifles” and welcomed us along side Captain Jackson, who was carrying a football. They were very close to a village of bad guys on the other side of Razorback Ridge (where six Silver Stars have been awarded for bravery and going beyond the call of duty). They had been hit by mortar attacks every five days for the last month until just before we arrived. But because of their counter attacks, they had destroyed the mortars and killed enough combatants that they hadn’t had an attack for fifteen days! Lesson: This life is the time for us to prepare to meet our maker; no matter what our past has been we have a spotless future; make today the best first day of the rest of your life!
- FYI – The battle of Roberts Ridge with Captain Self and his brave Army Rangers took place just over the mountain from where we were, AND the battleground where Marcus Lutrell and his Navy Seal Team 10 bravely fought for their lives was only 100 kilometers away in the other direction. After learning this, I shed tears of sadness as we again boarded a Chinook to fly out, remembering that it was a Chinook full of Navy Seals that was shot down in the rescue attempt of Lutrell and his brothers in arms. Much blood had been shed and sacrificed in that mountain area! It was an honor to visit such sacred ground!
On every base and FOB I always ate with the troops and talked to them about who they are, where they are from, and their career fields, so I can get to know them and get a pulse on the morale and commitment of our military force. When I had loaded my plate with food I looked around the mess tent and bee-lined it to a group of super fit chiseled men with longer hair and beards. They were the CBs (who arrive in the combat zone by air, land or sea) who fight and build to set up the airfields and construct the infrastructure of a base before anyone else shows up), a group of Elite Army Special Forces, and the Specialists working in EOD – Explosive Ordinance Disposal. A buffed young man by the name of Chris and I immediately connected and struck up an awesome conversation, that led to me giving him a “Live Lucky” hat and my personal Air Force Chief of Staff National Civic Leaders coin, which in turn inspired him to give me his EOD coin and a handmade bracelet that he had just made especially for me out of a parachute chord. I wore the bracelet the rest of the trip and to remind me of what real courage and selfless service really means, I will not take it off again.
- At FOB TB Airborne they gave us a tour of our own mortar units that are in place to provide the counter attacks on the incoming mortars. I got to hold a live mortar shell that weighed in at around 50 lbs. Of course I pulled out a sharpie and signed it with a greeting to the bad guys wishing them a wonderful day in hell when they realize how wrong they are!! The soldiers promised me they would use my autographed bomb the next time they had to shoot at the enemy! Yee Haw!
- The show was in a huge tent that was actually the fitness center with an amazing weight set. The engineer corps on the FOB had created and built an incredible stage out of materials just lying around, that made our performance look more big time and professional. The soldiers never cease to amaze anyone – even themselves! We returned that night back to Bagram base in the three machine gunner Chinook.
- The following day we again flew in a Chinook helicopter to another outlying FOB Fendy close to the Pakistan border by a town called Jalalabad. Because it is also remote, it had been a long time since they had had any entertainment on post. Consequently, our audience was awesome and more appreciative as we again connected on a deeper and more meaningful way. Before our main performance, we visited the Medical Unit who were not going to be able to see the show. A doctor, nurses, a dentist, a dental assistant and others first showed us what they do and where they do it, which allowed us to sit on a bed and stand around in a small hospital room while David sang to Dean’s guitar accompaniment. Doctor Robert Morris was also a great guitar player who jammed with us for a bit. It was like being in the old movie and television show MASH. They are all exceptional top-drawer medical professionals who just happen to be serving in a combat zone. How cool is that to know that our injured, sick and afflicted will receive the same high quality care as we do here at home!
Because of its close proximity to Pakistan, a major part of the mission at FOB Fendy in Jalalabad is to employ four huge trucks that look similar to M-Raps on steroids, that are designed to sniff out, find, locate, uncover and detonate IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) and attract vehicle born suicide bombers. These incredible brave soldiers willingly drive these vehicles into harms way to get shot at and blown up so others won’t have to. Every time they go outside the wire, the sole mission and purposeful job description for these incredibly brave and psycho soldiers is making it safe for everyone else who follows them. Wow! As part of our tour of the FOB they let us sit in their mighty trucks and play with the surveillance camera and operate their bomb detecting and defusing toys! It felt good to be a little kid again!
- The show for the base was well attended and our unique connection with each attendee made this performance an extraordinary show that all of us will always remember! As a thank you I was presented with an American flag that was flown over Jalalabad FOB on July 4, 2014. I will frame it and display it in my home as soon as I am able. We returned to Bagram on a Chinook.
- The next evening we performed at Bagram Base in the famous “Clam Shell” where all of the headlining groups perform. Before we began our show we were given a safety brief, that in case of an attack we should drop to our stomachs and put our hands over our heads and keep our mouths open so the blast doesn’t jack us up from the inside out. What? Yes. On July 4, one week before we arrived, while the band “Vertical Horizon” was performing on this same stage at this same time, two mortar shells were fired back-to-back into the base, landing just outside the entrance. Everybody dropped to their bellies and put their hands over their heads. Five minutes later they gave the “All Clear” and the concert continued. Crazy!
- The “Clam Shell” was packed with over 500 and all of the Base leaders were in attendance including Two Star Commanding General Townsend and One Star General O’Neil and Command Sergeant Major Lewis. In a quick conversation before the show started I asked General Townsend what he wanted me to talk about. Without a pause he told me to talk about the three most important things that he always emphasizes: the Seven Core Values of the US Army, to Live on Amber Alert, and to Always Take Disciplined Initiative! So, I spoke on them, illustrating each with a story. The General was blown away! And by allowing him to help me take a laser-like focus on my messaging it made it a spectacular show! All of his Aids said General Townsend never stays for the shows – he is too busy, and yet he stayed for our entire two-hour performance and laughed and thought and enjoyed the music. Generals Townsend and O’Neil and CSM Lewis all stormed the stage at the end to “Coin” us and sing our praises! I in turn, “Coined” each of them with my Air Force Chief of Staff National Civic Leaders Coin and gave each of them an official “Live Lucky” tour hat. They laughed and hugged me! In fact, we have been “Coined” at every base after every show! And no, the military leaders don’t feel obligated to coin us just because we did our show. A Coin ceremony is about saying thanks for an outstanding job where we went beyond the call of duty. Thanks to all of the leaders who gave us these prestigious tokens of their appreciation! I will add these 25 coins (RMOs) to my collection of over two hundred that I’ve accumulated over the last twenty years as a character and leadership development consultant for the United States Military.
- The next morning we shared our heartfelt thanks and said our goodbyes to Elisa and Sergeant Goins in Afghanistan and boarded a C-130 to fly back to Ali Al Salem Base in Kuwait. This aircraft was an old workhorse, called a Hercules, which has four turbo-prop engines, making it much slower than a C-17 jet. Consequently, our flight from Bagram to Ali Base was over four hours and loud and bumpy. Fortunately, two of the four crew members had heard me speak before and invited me to join them in the cockpit. This time it was a daylight flight and the view of Iran and Pakistan was cool and the view of the Palm Tree Island in the United Arab Emirates was spectacular!
- We had the day off at Ali Base and so I put in two good hard hours in the gym. Obviously I ran into many of the 800 caged up, cocked and loaded Marines who were still on base waiting for some action that the ISIS brethren in Iraq better pray never happens!
- The next morning we drove in our Black Water three SUV convoy to perform at Camp Buehring, only seven miles from the Iraqi border. This is the same staging base that I spoke at in 2005, to the hundreds of troops that had assembled to hear me speak just before they boarded the convoys to drive into harms way. Needless to say, the memories of the short and intimate interviews I had conducted with soldiers started flooding my mind, and I got emotional thinking about their answers to my question, “Where do you find your inner strength?” It was on this base in 2005 that I learned that every one of the troops in all five service branches (Air Force, Marines, Navy, Army and Coast Guard) all volunteered during a time of war because they wanted to serve their country. How incredible and noble! However, when the bullets start flying they are there to fight for each other as true brothers and sisters in arms! Camp Buehring received us well. We were Coined and felt like we had entertained and inspired and done what we came there to do! Interesting and pertinent to what is currently going on in Iraq with the terrorist group Isis, it was cool to see that we still had a lot of fire power within minutes of Baghadad, as we saw rows and rows of M1 tanks and artillery and Humvees all ready to make another assault on Iraq if required. And of course our troops are the best-trained, best-equipped fighting force in the world who refuse to lose, so why don’t the insurgent combatant fanatical fools realize this and give up now while they can. THEY WILL DEFINITELY LOSE! And the interesting and somewhat amusing thing is that while they claim they want to die for their cause our military are committed to helping them fulfill their goal! Ha!
- The next day we drove to Camp Arifjan – the headquarters office for all of the Kuwait theater. Arifjan is four times larger than Ali Base and houses and amalgamates the mind and heartbeat of the troops in Kuwait to execute the mission throughout the Middle Eastern region. The audience was older and more mature, filled with a lot of Reservists. The promo publicity was awesome and the larger than life posters on display in the theater were professionally done. I personally thanked them for going to this much effort! Because of the demographic makeup of the audience, I was able to deepen my message and really dive into the ins and outs of resiliency, reintegration into society after deployment, relationship management, and the required steps to recover from divorce and find true love again. We received a cheering standing ovation and were Coined again, and yes it is cool and a privilege to receive one each and every time!! I will display this coin by my picture of me standing on top of a captured Iraqi tank on display in front of headquarters!
- That afternoon we drove to Camp Patriot and performed to an amazing and hungry crowd who hung on every word and enjoyed the mix of humor and music. It was great to see a woman in charge of the base operations, flanked by a male Command Sergeant Major that supported her and rounded out their leadership team!
- Joe and our Black Water Security team then drove us to the Kuwait City Airport to fly commercial carrier on Ethiopian Airlines through Addis Ababa to Djibouti, where we conduct and execute the most amazing Joint Force Operation on the planet. Yes it is a Navy Base run by Naval officers and Enlisted leaders, but it integrates the U.S. Army, Air Force, and Marines, as well as the French, Spanish, Italian and Japanese troops into their mission. Every morning at 8 am the Star Spangled Banner is played over the base sound system, while two French Mirage fighter jets take off in tribute to our coalition with them. Truly this Joint Base Djibouti is a well-oiled machine and a successful beta test for how all bases should and can be run in our global war on terrorism! Hats off to the amazing leaders whom we met and watched.
- As we flew in and out of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, the mountains and valleys were lush green and the temperature was cooler, it being the rainy season. We therefore, assumed Djibouti would be the same. Not even close! It was a flat and desolate desert of sand that very few humans would ever want to visit. There were a lot of soldiers from Kansas in both Kuwait and Djibouti and I kidded them in both performances that this base was a lot like Kansas in that it was so flat, they could sit on their front porch and watch their dog run away for three days! All kidding aside, Djibouti is the strategic hub for our anti-pirating mission off the coast of Somalia, it being right across the water from Yemen and close to the Horn of Africa. I loved saying, “How Djibouti?”
- The performance in Djibouti was in the MWR building to a packed house of 500 people with standing room only. It is a large room with pool tables, television sets, an internet cafe and an open bar. The bar started serving alcohol an hour before our show began and was kept open during our performance. They shut down the TVs and pool tables just as the MC introduced me, but there were a few who were tuned up and ready to party. Therefore, as the producer of the show, I decided to change up the order to match the energy and wild vibe of the room. I spoke at the beginning as usual, but then turned the time over to Jason who rose to the occasion and nailed his first set! He was magnificent. David followed him with “Stand By Me,” and Sting’s “Fields of Gold” that brought the house down. We now had the audience in the palm of our hands as we proceeded to deliver the most unique show they had ever had in that venue. Even with the alcohol factor we connected heart to heart, spirit to spirit, and kept our promise that they would think, laugh and feel throughout the 90 minute show! Again I tell you that David Archuleta and Jason Hewlett and David’s musical director Dean Kaelin with his solo piano performance, are special entertainers who as true and consummate professionals transformed that night club atmosphere into a tabernacle of personal improvement and wholesome entertainment. At the end of the show I invited everyone to the chapel for a much more intimate and thought provoking question and answer discussion with us about what really matters most. We had many friends of different faiths join us and my message was simple: “The things that matter most are the things that last the longest; When you dance, the goal is not to end up on a specific place on the floor, but rather to enjoy each step along the way; and The purpose of life is not to live forever, but to create something that will!”
- Chris from FOB TB Airborne in Afghanistan obviously represents and believes what Seamus, an EOD Specialist in Djibouti, whom I met on the last day of the tour, left on my video interview: “I chose EOD because I am constantly giving to others and saving lives of people who will never know my name. I willingly risk my life so that others will live. There is no more noble part of the military machine to be a part of!” After he had given our group a personalized back lot tour of his weapons and robots and bomb suit (which he put on David Archuleta to show him and all of us how and why the suit protects them while they do their hair-raising work), Seamus gave me his unique EOD coin with a handshake. During the show that night in Djibouti I gave him a “Live Lucky” hat and one of my “Put On The Whole Armor Of God” coins as a symbol of how many people are actually praying for him that he be protected and kept safe! As he came to the stage, I kidded him publically that it looks like Djibouti had a great steroid program going because he was buffed! Tall, dark and handsome with a mustache, big muscles, a Tom Cruise smile, natural leadership charisma and a sense of humility that his purpose in life is to unselfishly serve and sacrifice for others! Wow!!
In Djibouti, we originally came into the country thinking we could change things for the better, coach them up to a higher standard of living, and leave them in better shape than we found them. But finally those in charge got off their high horse and started appreciating their centuries old traditions and the reasons behind them. For example, the citizens of Djibouti didn’t understand our culture of toilets and use of toilet paper. They had never used a toilet. They use rocks to clean themselves after a bowel movement, and would do so and throw the rocks into the toilet, which clogged them. At first our leaders called them uncivilized, until they finally realized that Djibouti doesn’t have any natural resources or means whereby they can manufacture toilet paper, which means that when we eventually leave the country they will be forced to return to their old ways anyway. There are no trees from which to make toilet paper, but there is an endless supply of rocks. In every country wherein the USA enters, especially in a military capacity of protection or defiance against an enemy, our mission is always to help them do what they can’t do for themselves – socially, emotionally, economically, politically, militarily. And for the most part, our military has always left every country in better shape than we found it.
- On our way home from Djibouti we had a ten hour layover in Addis Ababa Ethiopia before we flew to Paris France and caught our non-stop Delta jet to Salt Lake City. So we conducted one last spiritual discussion with locals from across the city in a church that a local ecclesiastical leader had reserved for us. Our music and the spoken word went well and the spirit was strong. Afterwards the older couples took us to a local authentic Ethiopian restaurant with a stage that hosted native musicians playing traditional music accompanied by authentic traditional dancers. As usual, David was recognized by some Philippinos who wanted their pictures taken and autographs signed. David was gracious, but within 30 minutes, the owner of the restaurant came up to David and asked if he would perform for the two hundred dinner guests. David asked me what he should sing. I suggested “Stand By Me” and REMs “Everybody Hurts Sometime.” Dean plugged in his guitar, which he had taken in with him because we didn’t want to have it stolen from the van, and I introduced David as the American Idol superstar that he is. On the very first note the crowd went wild as David wowed them with his incredible stage presence and performance style! Even the traditional Ethiopian musicians playing the flute, drums and one string instrument chimed in to accompany him. What a hoot!! What a memory as I suddenly turned into security man and escorted David out of the midst of a room full of enchanted fans who wanted their pictures taken with him and an autograph in their book. We made it safely out of there and headed to the airport. We flew out that night at 12:30 am on a six hour flight to Paris to catch our connecting ten hour flight to Salt Lake and our home sweet home!
Bottom line. My thanks goes out to Mr. Daniel Cook in Qatar and Ms. Elisa Weaver in Afghanistan who work for Armed Forces Entertainment and Army MWR, who believed in my concept of Music, Comedy and Motivational Theater, which proved to be “just what the doctor ordered” to help the troops escape for a day from their stress, sacrifice and long hour jobs. Most significantly, we brought a little slice of home to them that was more thought provoking and meaningful than a group of cheerleaders and athletes, or actors, comedians and musicians there to simply sign autographs. Thank you Daniel, Elisa and David Goins for believing in my show concept and giving us this extraordinary and special opportunity to personally thank our troops for their sacrifice and service. At my age, speaking and producing shows like this is the only way I can serve my country. Thank you. We love our troops. We NEED our troops. We honor our troops. God bless each and every one of them and their families. God bless America!
With love and admiration,
Dan Clark, An American Patriot