It started back in 2014 when the band I was touring with was contacted by Pete Hegseth (former Army National Guard Officer and now a regular on Fox News). Pete saw that we were providing a voice for veterans around the country and teaming up with his organization, the Concerned Veterans for America, would be a great fit. The principle makes a lot of sense and is actually a really meaningful concept: Bring like minded people together and empower them to create change in the legal system.
After 3 trial shows with the CVA, we got booked for a national tour. The flow of the events were as follows:
- CVA and the entire crew would arrive at the event site, usually a ballroom in a hotel, and sometimes a music venue such as the House of Blues.
- The setup on stage would include a podium, and all of the gear for the band.
- People would arrive, (usually in the hundreds) and help themselves to free BBQ before the event would officially begin.
- The opening act was country star Ayla Brown (daughter of Senator Brown).
- After Ayla, there were 3 main speakers including Karen Vaughn, Pete Hegseth, and Sean Parnell.
- After the speeches, we would play a 30 minute set, ending the entire event with the famous rock rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
I always looked forward to playing the Star Spangled Banner. People loved it. It made everyone feel connected and proud to be living in America. It was a song that unified the audience. Imagine 500 people on their feet singing along, cheering, smiling, feeling that they had a voice. I focused on that positivity and sense of community. It made me feel like I was a part of something bigger than myself.
For two summers in a row I was on tour with the CVA, traveling all over the country spreading good energy and connecting with many veterans who needed inspiration in their lives. There were a few occasions where I met veterans with PTSD who told me that because of the new rock version of the Star Spangled Banner they were able to get out of bed in the morning, and in some cases even continue living. Sometimes you do not realize the impact you can have on others. It may seem so simple, but you can really change someone else’s life by showing up. That’s it!
The band got into a nice groove during this time period with the CVA. Merch sales were growing, people became aware of who we were as a band, and the numbers kept going up. This was absolutely the high point of the band’s success. Unfortunately, when things went south with our original vocalist, so too did the CVA begin to downsize its touring operations. We did a few more shows together with the new singer, but clearly it was not the same and the band entered its final 2 year phase of complete unraveling.
The takeaway for me (from this entire CVA experience) was feeling the passion and love of America by veterans and supporters. Through my discussions with vets, I could sense a gratitude for being alive and a focus on what they had as opposed to what they did not have. I also sensed a distrust of the government, some of it due to personal experiences with the VA. It’s all about the stories: Soldiers who fought overseas, families who lost loved ones to senseless violence, brothers and sisters who could not be home for the holidays because they were fighting for America, all of these situations lead to seeing the world in a certain light. I learned a lot about America while touring with the CVA. We have to listen to each other. We all have different experiences that shape who we are.