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Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora rock out at the Sapporo Dome Thursday. The band gave 100 free tickets to U.S. soldiers training in the area.
Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora rock out at the Sapporo Dome Thursday. The band gave 100 free tickets to U.S. soldiers training in the area. (Courtesy of Bon Jovi)

American rocker Jon Bon Jovi surprised U.S. soldiers preparing for an exercise in northern Japan on Tuesday with free concert tickets.

About 80 soldiers spent Wednesday night rocking with Bon Jovi in Sapporo Dome, at the first concert of the band’s world tour. Bon Jovi plays six more shows in Japan this month.

“It rocked,” said Staff Sgt. Alexander Piper Murray of Fort Lewis, Wash.

“The laser show was fantastic,” added 1st Sgt. Tim Dodge, also from Fort Lewis.

Jon Bon Jovi gave 100 free tickets to U.S. troops after seeing a group of soldiers at the Sapporo airport Tuesday. He learned they were training in the area and offered the tickets, which usually run $50 to $75.

“We know what it’s like to be on the other side of the world away from our friends and families,” Bon Jovi said Thursday. “So we said we wanted to bring a little bit of home to them.”

Murray, 28, had never seen the band. Dodge, 39, caught a show 14 years ago while serving in Germany. “I have been a fan for many years,” he said.

The concert, and the free tickets, came as a surprise to the troops.

“I had no clue he was playing in Japan,” Dodge said. “We heard about it,” the day of the show, he said.

Both men found the concert more orderly and calm than those in the United States.

“It was amazing to me how disciplined the Japanese are,” Murray said. “It was kind of different.”

Entire families attended and people stuck to their seats for the 2½ hour show, Murray said.

The concert gave the handful of Fort Lewis soldiers and those from Camp Zama a break from long days of preparations for the annual Yama Sakura exercise later this month, said Capt. Naomi Freeman of Segami Depot.

“It was a really good morale-building event, to get out and see some live music,” she said. “We really appreciated it.”

She had seen Bon Jovi before, oddly, also in Japan. “Bon Jovi is really big in Japan,” she said.

Yama Sakura runs Jan. 23-31 at Camp Higashi-Chitose, Hokkaido, Japan. About 1,500 U.S. soldiers will train with 4,500 of their Japanese counterparts in simulated exercises.

It’s usually not a fun time, Murray said.

“This is one of the coolest things that I can say has ever happened at Yama Sakura,” he added.

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