FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (AFNS - 4/26/2012) -- An Air Force guitar is making its rounds across the U.S. with rock band Lillian Axe after an Airman and the band's lead guitarist collaborated on a way to honor nine Airmen who were killed April 27, 2011, at the Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan.
Maj. Henry Cecil, an Air Force representative to the Federal Aviation Administration in Fort Worth, Texas, and Steve Blaze, the band's lead guitarist and song writer, teamed up with guitar maker John Guilford to have the guitar made. After Lillian Axe tours with the guitar, Cecil and the band plan to raffle it off with the proceeds going to the Air Advisor Memorial.
Maj. Henry Cecil (right) talks to the audience about the background of why the Air Force guitar was built as Lillian Axe lead guitarist Steve Blaze looks on April 21, 2012, at the Riverside Warehouse in Shreveport, La. Cecil and Blaze collaborated with guitar maker John Guilford to build the guitar to honor nine Airmen who were killed April 27, 2010, at the Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan. After Lillian Axe tours with the guitar, it will be raffled off with the proceeds going toward the Air Advisor Memorial. Cecil is an Air Force representative to the Federal Aviation Administration in Fort Worth, Texas. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chris Powell
"I served in Afghanistan in 2010 as an air advisor in Kabul," Cecil said. "I knew three of them very well, and (Capt. Nylander) happened to be my roommate for the last five or six weeks I was there."
Losing his fellow Airmen had a huge impact on the major, and he said he was inspired to raise money for the families of the Airmen by past movements that raised millions of dollars.
"One day, Steve and I were talking on the phone, and I asked him if he thought we could get John Guilford to build an Air Force guitar that we could raffle off to help raise money for the families," Cecil said. "Steve didn't even let me finish the sentence before he said yes. Then, I called John, and he jumped in with both feet, and it was very fun to work with him because I could hear his excitement over the phone.
"(The design of the guitar) evolved; it just wasn't one idea and there it is," he explained. "We worked together over many and many phone calls. If he ran into a problem or wasn't quite sure about something, we solved it over the phone. The guitar is exactly what I envisioned."
The front of the guitar includes a portion of Cecil's Airman Battle Uniform that he wore while deployed to Afghanistan and has the words "U.S. Air Force" on the fingerboard in mother-of-pearl inlay.
"We have a great appreciation of our military at all levels, from the guy at the desk to the guys in the field, for what they've done for this country," Blaze said. "When he asked me, I thought it was an honor, and I thanked him for the opportunity."
The back of the guitar has the names of the Airmen who were killed: Lt. Col. Frank D. Bryant Jr., Maj. Philip D. Ambard, Maj. Jeffrey O. Ausborn, Maj. David L. Brodeur, Maj. Raymond G. Estelle, Maj. Charles A. Ransom, Capt. Nathan J. Nylander, retired Lt. Col. James Mclaughlin and Master Sgt. Tara R. Brown.
"It's as much a work of art as it is a musical instrument, and I can't think of a finer way to honor those (Airmen)," said Guilford, who performed all the labor on the guitar for free. "It's a beautiful opportunity."
The major said he's been following Lillian Axe for more than 24 years, but his and Blaze's friendship didn't blossom until a few years ago.
"I talked to Steve for a minute or two at numerous shows over the years, but our friendship really didn't come about until I was deployed, and in September (2010), they came out with a new album called 'Deep Red Shadows,' Cecil said. "I finally got the copies in and opened them up all excited and started playing it on my computer. I opened up the liner notes and was flipping through them when I saw on the last page a song (titled 'Take the Bullet') dedicated to the military."
It was then that Cecil knew he had to contact Blaze to thank him, so he emailed him and told him he was a longtime fan and that one of his CDs made it to the warzone. He wanted to show his appreciation to the band, so he flew a flag on all the Afghan air force airframes and had pilots sign the CD's artwork.
"He sent me the American flag, some wonderful coins, pictures of the mission and even Gen. David Petraeus' autograph on one of my CDs," Blaze said. "I thought it was so cool, and then we started developing a friendship, and he came down when he was back in the States and met the band, and now he's like part of the crew."
After Guilford completed work on the guitar, he drove it from his shop in Glasford, Ill., to unveil it at the Dallas International Guitar Festival in Dallas on April 19 before Blaze took it on stage for his first performance with it April 21 at the Riverside Warehouse in Shreveport, La.
Blaze, who plans to only use the Air Force guitar when he plays "Take the Bullet," has a message for the people thinking of buying a raffle ticket or just donating money to the Air Advisor Memorial.
"Don't worry about the guitar, let's go out and donate the money (to help) these families and 32 kids who lost a parent who were taking care of other people," Blaze said. "You could win an amazing guitar, but more importantly, you're helping out in a big way."
To donate or to find more more information, go to www.airadvisormemorial.org.
By USAF Tech. Sgt. Chris Powell, Defense Media Activity
Air Force News Service
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