Easton, Pa. theater rocks out for wounded local veteran Adam Keys
The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)
EASTON, Pa. — Cheers and whoops rose as the deep blat of several motorcycles announced the arrival of Army Sgt. Adam Keys' escort.
Braving the rain and a thunder crack, dozens of people huddled beneath the State Theatre's marquee on Northampton Street in Easton to catch a glimpse of Keys, who arrived in a minivan outfitted to carry his wheelchair, and a fellow wounded veteran, Marine Sgt. John Peck.
Keys, of Whitehall Township, lost both legs and a hand to a roadside bomb while serving in Afghanistan. Peck, of Antioch, Ill., lost his legs and an arm to a bomb in Afghanistan, and his other arm to a persistent infection.
Mark Lang, a Marine from Boston who met Peck and Keys while rehabbing at Walter Reed Medical Center inWashington, D.C., said his mom and girlfriend cried as they watched the motorcade. Lang, 23, tall and trim in a polo shirt and blue jeans, said his friends inspire him. He said he wouldn't have missed Friday night's show at the State Theatre for anything.
"It's just so overwhelming," Lang said of the reception before the Gary Sinise-led Lt. Dan Band concert to benefit an effort to build Keys a home. "It fills me with so much pride because people are willing to do this much for [Keys].
"It's the kindness of strangers."
Lang said Keys deserves all the cheers, hugs and kisses rained on him during his arrival.
"Adam is always so positive, so upbeat," Lang said. "And he's so much more hurt than I am. It's guys like Adam that help put things in perspective."
Dan DeLeon of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, who will help build a fully accessible smart home for Keys, said his own son's experience in Iraq motivated him to volunteer with the foundation, which builds homes for severely wounded veterans.
"It's a lot of fun," DeLeon said of his work with the foundation. "It's a good thing, too. When you see these guys come back, you feel like you have to do something for them."
The show was all about guys like Peck, Lang and Keys. Opening act Daniel Rodriguez sang "America the Beautiful" while painter Scott Lobaido slapped and brushed an American flag on a canvas. Lobaido then peeled back some tape to reveal an image of the World Trade Center, the flag a blur of purple, blue, red and white behind it.
The painting was auctioned immediately to the audience, selling for $7,500 to longtime Lehigh Valley business and community leader Elmer D. Gates.
Gates, 82, of Hanover Township, Northampton County, climbed the stage to chat briefly with Rodriguez. Lang shook Gates' hand as he made his way to the stage. All of the money goes toward Keys' new home — as will all of the ticket sales to the concert, which was sold out.
Rodriguez belted out several show songs and a heartfelt rendition of "You Raise Me Up."
The Lt. Dan Band rocked the packed house with classic rock 'n' roll, soul and funk peppered with some country tunes and pop ballads.
Sinise gave many thanks to those in uniform past and present and jammed on his bass at Keys' side during the band's first song, the Police hit "Synchronicity." The group thumped and rolled through soul songs to get the crowd moving, and featured five different singers taking turns as Sinise bobbed and danced in the background.
The band was best on big, power songs like the Who's"Baba O'Riley," Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" and the Zac Brown Band's "Chicken Fried." They showed their chops and versatility as they soared on the Charlie Daniels Band favorite, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia."
Sinise asked the audience if they had seen his band play before and few hands went up in the crowd.
"You didn't think it'd be this good, did you?" Sinise asked.
Guitarist Kimo Williams, a Vietnam War veteran, shredded his way through "Purple Haze" and sang with gusto. Just before the song he talked a bit about his time in Vietnam and tucked a 20th Engineers patch into the head of his guitar. Williams said he talked to Keys before the show and Keys gave him the patch. Both men served in the 20th Engineers.
"Thank you, Adam," Williams said. "Thank you."
Keys addressed the crowd at the end, saying "Please don't look at me for my losses, look at me for my gains."