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Saluting The Troops At The Houston Rodeo
(March 26, 2009)

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David Bancroft with Marine Honor Guard at the Salute to Our Troops’ celebration
David Bancroft with Marine Honor Guard at the Salute to Our Troops' celebration
 When I learned about the Salute to Our Troops' celebration at the Rodeo in Houston, Texas (my hometown) on March 18, 2009 . . . I immediately changed my plans to attend it.

Ever since the founding of USA Patriotism! shortly after the tragic terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and with my youngest son still in the Marines . . . one of my priorities with it has been to support and honor our brave, proud troops everyday through the listing of poems, songs, videos, articles, photos, tributes, and more.  (Some of the poems and articles are mine.)

And it includes doing so in person whenever possible!

Not only did I want to be able to extend my thanks to the troops who would be there . . . it gave me the opportunity to finally meet Keni Thomas, who with his Cornbread band, was the headliner of the outdoor show that occurred before the rodeo.

Keni Thomas, a rising country artist with several top hits, is one of those stars, who is always there for the troops wherever they may be serving. He is also a decorated combat veteran of the elite 75th Ranger Rgt special operations unit . . . receiving the bronze star for valor.

 Troops, veterans, and their loved ones enjoying the performances by the artists at the Salute to Our Troops’ celebration
Troops, veterans, and their loved ones enjoying the performances by the artists at the Salute to Our Troops' celebration
Well, with the assistance of Robin Young-Ellis, founder of the Salute to Our Troops and Sean Gilfillan,
co-founder To The Fallen Records (TTFR), and their associates . . . I was able to meet with many of the troops;
Keni Thomas; Keni's fellow TTFR artists, Chad Van Rys and Cliff Hudson; and, Nash3.

Nor did Keni and his fellow performers disappoint either . . . all doing so for free, as they were there to honor the troops in song and meeting with them afterwards.

Nash3 (Bill, Kim, and Jimmy Nash) were the first to perform, which included singing “In God We Still Trust” . . . and was a major hit for Diamond Rio. Upon meeting with them, I learned that Bill and Kim Nash had written this great song.
 

David Bancroft with Bill, Kim, and Jimmy Nash
David Bancroft with Bill, Kim, and Jimmy Nash

Next, was Cliff Hudson, who served in Iraq with the Marines and is still subject to recall as he has about three years remaining in the Marines Individual Ready Reserve.  This personable, talented young man really
Marine Cliff Hudson performing his heartfelt song, “Send My Love” for fellow troops at Salute to Our Troops.
Marine Cliff Hudson performing his heartfelt song, “Send My Love” for fellow troops at Salute to Our Troops
 touched his fellow troops and patriots with the performance of his song, Send My Love.  He also kindly shared the following heart touching thoughts about how he wrote the song...

“I met my wife while serving in a detachment for Central Naval Command in London. She was there after graduating from Vanderbilt for an internship and had just arrived a few days before . . . About five minutes after I met her I knew I was finished and later promised her that if she would put up with me as an Enlisted Infantry Marine that I'd go anywhere she wanted me to. I proposed to Ashley before I left on my last deployment to Ar Ramadi, Iraq.

Of course in Iraq, with the pace we had to keep, a standard guitar was out of the question for me, but around 2 1/2 months into my deployment my soon to be father-in-law saw an article about a Marine who had found a way to get bagpipes to Iraq and decided that if that Marine could have bagpipes then his future son-in-law could have a guitar. He bought and shipped me a Martin backpacking guitar.

I didn't know about it until the package arrived after one of our trips outside wire and when I saw what it was I was almost scared to open it. I had forgotten how much I longed to play and write and exactly how much emotion had built up while I'd been in Iraq.

The first thing that happened was that everything I was feeling about missing Ashley came out and, "Send My Love" was written. The entire time that Ashley and I had been together, we'd been apart due to my deployments
and "Send My Love" was the only way I really knew how to tell her and to make sense of everything I was feeling.

The way the song has been taken in by military families as a way of getting through their times apart was something that kind of caught me off guard. I wrote the song simply to get my thoughts out and that it has helped others going through similar situations is one of the more humbling and gratifying things that I have found in my life.”

Cliff Hudson also reflected on his military service...

 

David Bancroft with Cliff Hudson
David Bancroft with Cliff Hudson

“When I look back at my life, I can honestly say that there isn't one thing that I'd change. I have seen many things and experienced many experiences, but all those have helped shape who I am today. I am proud of my time in The United States Marine Corps and even more proud of the Marines I've worked for, beside, and those that fought like hell while in my charge . . . If nothing else, I hope that my story offers those in similar situations a little hope and shows that there are happy endings out there . . . I'm living proof of that."

Marine veteran Chad Van Rys performing for troops at the Salute to Our Troops’ celebration
Marine veteran Chad Van Rys performing his heart grabbing song, "Once A Marine", for troops at the Salute to Our Troops' celebration

 Chad Van Rys, a Marine veteran who had three tours in Iraq, followed Cliff with another moving performance that included his song, Once A Marine, that brought memories of my son when he was in Iraq. (My wife, who took all the photos, shed a few motherly tears.)

Chad, like Cliff, used his musical talent to entertain his fellow Marines while on active duty.

Chad explains...

“I have many reasons as to why I joined the Marines, and if I had to, I would do it all over again. If the music I played while we were out in the sand made somebody else smile or laugh or go somewhere else even if only in their mind...then...I am satisfied.

For me, the music was an escape and hopefully when I played somebody else got to escape too . . . It almost felt like I was back home at the lake with some friends, just relaxing by a campfire. It was therapeutic.

I wrote most of my songs either in the barracks or overseas and I think that they are all fairly self-explanatory. There are only a few songs that are not true events, moments, memories or dreams."

Chad appears to be a man of few words, but he uses them very well in his music.  (Marines are more about action anyway.)

David Bancroft with Chad Van Rys
David Bancroft with Chad Van Rys

Then shortly before Keni Thomas and Cornbread performed, Wayne Newton came on stage. He didn't sing this day, but honored the troops with words of praise and encouragement that would have made Bob Hope proud.

Wayne Newton was visiting troops in nearby bases in his role with the USO, which was also represented by its CEO and President, Sloan Gibson, at the Salute To The Troops' celebration.

It was also an honor being able to meet with Wayne Newton again.  I first met him in Las Vegas two years ago, where I gave him with a signed copy of my poem, Danke Wayne Newton

Wayne is also honored at USA Patriotism! as a Great American Patriot and in the Stars There For The Troops.  I believe Newton is second only to Bob Hope in time spent in unconditional support of the troops. He is much more than a great entertainer.  He epitomizes one's love and pride of America . . . that is unselfishly displayed everyday!

 

David Bancroft with legendary entertainer, Wayne Newton
David Bancroft with legendary entertainer, Wayne Newton

Wayne Newton's words are self-explanatory... "These men and women are over there because our country sent them, and we have the absolute necessity to try to bring them as much happiness as we can.”

Keni Thomas (third right)) and Cornbread band performing, "Hero", that brought tears of pride too many in the crowd.
Keni Thomas (third right)) and Cornbread band performing, "Hero", that brought tears of pride too many in the crowd.

 Oh, I forgot to mention earlier that Keni Thomas and I actually met as I arrived.

We just sort of ran into each other right before he sang the National Anthem that included a memorable fly over by two F-16s from Ellington Air Force base.

We had a much longer visit after his and Cornbreads' nearly one hour performance that included several heartfelt songs from his Flags Of Our Fathers: A Soldier's Story CD, which I consider one of the best patriotic CDs.

Hero and Not Me were very emotional for many in the audience with some parents of fallen heroes coming up to Keni after his performance . . . while I was speaking with him.  They all expressed their thanks to him for the touching words he wrote and sang, which obviously comes from his heart.  Keni even comforted one mother who was very tearful.
I even had an opportunity to expresses my sincere appreciation to the parents of a son (photo right) who bravely served our beloved country and sadly made the ultimate sacrifice in 2002 while serving in Afghanistan.  As a father of Marine veteran, who served in Iraq during 2003, I have a sense of their loss.

And the thought of possibly losing my son, as they did theirs, is the reason why I wrote my poem, Honoring The Fallen.  (I wrote Tears For Your Fallen when an online friend's son made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq.)

 David Bancroft, founder of USA Patriotism!, expresses his sincere appreciation to the parents of a son who bravely served our beloved country and sadly paid the ultimate in 2002 while serving in Afghanistan. David is also a father of a Marine veteran son who served in Iraq and had a very close call.
I have a feeling Keni Thomas, Cliff Hudson, and Chad Van Rys might approach writing their songs the same way . . . just that they do so from personally experiencing harm's way and all that comes with it.

In fact, Keni Thomas' following words should give you a good idea of who he is...

David Bancroft with Keni Thomas
David Bancroft with Keni Thomas

 

"We are Americans. We're still one nation under God and believe it or not, we all feel the same about the country we live in. We are grateful for it's opportunities. We value our freedom. We are proud of our military. We love our kids and we want what is best for them.”

Keni Thomas has also been recognized by USA Patriotism! in its Stars There For The Troops . . . for his tireless support of the troops . . . which he did so again in Houston.  He reminds me of Wayne Newton, Gary Sinise, and other stars / celebrities who never say no when it comes to doing something for our troops, which includes being the national spokesman for the Hero Fund and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

Now, I want to make it very clear . . . that meeting the young men and women who are actively serving in my
hometown with many of them having one or more deployments in harm's way . . . was the most gratifying time I had . . . as enough thanks and praise cannot be said to or about them.  It just so happens to apply to Keni Thomas, Cliff Hudson, and Chad Van Rys, who are now veterans . . . supporting the troops with their musical talents and other efforts.

And I was fortunate to meet more of the 1,600 troops later too . . . as Salute to Our Troops (Houston, Texas) also treated them and their spouses / dates to dinner, the rodeo, and Gary Alan's concert in Reliant Stadium from several of its suites. 

All of it was made possible by donations and sponsorships from generous patriots.  A thanks also goes to the Houston Rodeo and Livestock show in providing the venue that allowed for the Salute to Our Troops celebration.

I can only imagine how many more troops will be at the third Salute To The Troops celebration in 2010, which I am looking forward to attending and doing more.

Hopefully, every city will start honoring the local active troops and reservists similarly . . . and that the residents will contribute as they can . . . then come out and show their appreciation for the brave, proud ones serving our beloved USA.

 

David Bancroft with soldiers (left to right) SSG Ana Casas, SGT Tori Brandum, SSG Dustin Jaeger, and SSG Bill Miller
David Bancroft with soldiers (left to right) SSG Ana Casas,
SGT Tori Brandum, SSG Dustin Jaeger, and SSG Bill Miller

David Bancroft with two disabled soldiers who were wounded while bravely serving us all in harm's way
David Bancroft with two disabled soldiers who were
wounded while bravely serving us all in harm's way

David G. Bancroft
Founder / Owner
USA Patriotism!
Copyright 2009
 

See more photos taken at the Salute to Our Troops celebration

 

Note... You can learn more about Sean Gilfillan, co-founder To The Fallen Records and an Army Reserve Captain by watching an interview of him listed on USA Patriotism!

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