Musicians Entertain Troops, Families

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

BRENTWOOD, Tenn., Nov. 11, 2006 - With the aroma of a barbecue lunch hanging in the air, the first chords of a welcome home concert for the soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, rang out here yesterday afternoon.

For some of the entertainers, the event held special meaning. Amy-Jayne McCabe's husband, now an Army reservist, once served in the 327th Infantry Regiment. She has combined her experience as a military spouse with her love of music to support the troops.

"I've dedicated my career to ... supporting military families in any way I can. What more powerful way to that than through music?" McCabe said after performing for the group of about 750 soldiers and their families.

Richie McDonald, lead vocalist for the country music group Lonestar, agreed that music is a powerful tool.

"The powerful thing about music is that it just helps people through tough times," McDonald said, using one of Lonestar's biggest hits, "I'm Already There," as an example. Eight years ago, the group had been on the road for several weeks when McDonald called and his then-2-year-old son asked when he was coming home. The song is about love transcending distance.

"It was a couple years later, the war broke out and all these men and women are getting shipped overseas away from their loved ones," he said. "That's when they started requesting the song."

That song has helped create a special bond between the group and servicemembers, McDonald said. Consequently, Lonestar has performed at several stateside military facilities.

"I know what it means to us, and I know what it means to them, too. It just means freedom," he said. "They're out there putting their lives on the line, and some of them have paid the ultimate sacrifice, so we can get up on stage and sing."

To the servicemembers, it means that someone cares about them and appreciates what they're doing, Army Spc. Josett Campbell said. She is part of the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment's Forward Support Company.

"I feel so important today," she said, adding the support Brentwood, the city that adopted her unit, provided during her deployment was wonderful. "Brentwood is a very, very important place (to me.)"

Though she said she prefers R&B or hip-hop to country music, she said she was really enjoying the picnic and concert. In addition to McCabe and Lonestar, Campbell and her fellow soldiers from the 1st Battalion also enjoyed performances by Buddy Jewell, the first "Nashville Star" winner and a regional band, The Kadillacs.

Army Maj. David Bottcher, the battalion's executive officer, said the day was amazing. "The soldiers are having a great time," he said. "It's time for them to enjoy with their families and relax and let their hair down."

Through America Supporting Americans, a California-based organization founded by Linda Patterson, six cities -- four in middle Tennessee and two in California -- adopted each of the battalion's six companies. Patterson's organization, which focuses on connecting cities and units, is a member of America Supports You, a Defense Department program highlighting ways Americans and the corporate sector support the nation's servicemembers.

The adopting cities provided support to the soldiers through many means, including care packages, letters while they were deployed to Iraq. And Lt. Col. Marc Hutson, the battalion's commander, couldn't let the day pass without thanking the representatives of the six cities that have adopted his companies.

"It's absolutely a great and awesome day to be here," he said. "I want to thank the great citizens of the communities of Brentwood, Franklin, Ashland City, San Mateo (Calif.), Burlingame (Calif.) and Winchester ... for putting on this great event and all the support that we enjoyed over the past year while we were in Iraq."

The picnic and concert were part of a daylong welcome home celebration hosted by Brentwood and organized by the middle Tennessee police departments. Representatives of the two California cities also were on hand. Earlier in the day, the soldiers and their families participated in a parade to formally welcome them home.

The afternoon, however, was all about relaxing and having a good time, Brentwood Police Chief Ricky Watson said. "The purpose of this picnic is to let these men and women have one great day of relaxation in Williamson County and let Williamson County honor these men and women so they know that we appreciate the job they've done," Watson said. "It's an honor for us to be able to be out here to honor them today, and that's what it's all about is these soldiers and their families."

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