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Joe Walsh, others team up for concert to benefit veterans

Joe Walsh is hosting the first "VetsAid" concert on Sept. 20 in Fairfax, Va., with the proceeds going to 18 organizations that assist veterans and military families. Walsh wants to grow the show into an annual event modeled on Willie Nelson???s Farm Aid.

COURTESY OF BEAUTIFUL DAY MEDIA

By NIKKI WENTLING | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 18, 2017

WASHINGTON — Longtime musician Joe Walsh, a Grammy award-winner and inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is best known as a guitarist for the Eagles. A lesser-known fact: he’s also a Gold Star son.

Walsh’s father, flight instructor Robert Newton Fidler, died in Okinawa, Japan, when Walsh was 20 months old.

“I lost my father when I was a baby, before I could even make a memory of him,” Walsh said in a written statement. “I grew up always wondering what he would be like. I spent a lot of time trying to do something that would make him proud of me.”

Now, Walsh, 69, is launching an initiative to help veterans and other families of servicemembers who have died.

On Wednesday, Walsh will play a concert at Eagle Bank Arena in Fairfax, Virginia, with the proceeds going toward 18 organizations that assist veterans and military families. He’s calling the effort “VetsAid” and wants to grow it into an annual event, modeled after Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid concert series, which benefits family farms.

Keith Urban, Zac Brown Band and Gary Clark Jr., will join Walsh on Wednesday. At first, Walsh struggled to assemble a lineup for the concert, his publicist Elizabeth Freund said. Keith Urban joined, and then Zac Brown and Gary Clark Jr. rescheduled other shows.

VetsAid, the nonprofit established for the purpose of distributing funds from the concert, announced the first round of recipients in July. They are: Operation Mend, Hire Heroes USA, Warrior Canine Connection, TAPS, Semper Fi Fund, Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, Stop Soldier Suicide and Swords to Plowshares.

On Monday, VetsAid named other, smaller organizations that will receive a portion of the funds raised: Snowball Express, North Carolina-based Equinox Ranch, Arizona-based Right Turn for Yuma Vets, Illinois-based Code Platoon, Connecticut-based Work Vessels for Vets., Inc., Delaware- and Texas-based Suiting Warriors, Arkansas Run for the Fallen and Virginia-based Semper K9 Assistance Dogs, Project Horse, Inc., and Center for American Military Music Opportunities.

Walsh is putting the focus on small, state- or community-oriented organizations.

“In my touring, I have come across veterans all over this country and have seen these smaller organizations, often run by vets, working in their communities doing a lot of good,” Walsh said. “One of the main reasons I am launching VetsAid is to not only reward the well-established charity groups doing good works in the field but also to recognize and support these modest ones who are in the trenches and for whom a little money can go a long way.”

One of the smaller groups to benefit from VetsAid is the Arkansas Run for the Fallen.

Bubba Beason, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant in Beebe, Arkansas, started the annual, 146-mile run in 2011 to honor Arkansas servicemembers who died while on active duty during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

In addition to the run, the organization has grown to include events for Gold Star families, as well as a traveling memorial, an annual wreath laying and a camp for children of Arkansas servicemembers who have died. Proceeds they’re given from VetsAid will go toward the camp and toward $1,000 scholarships that the organization gives to Gold Star children going to college.

The group receives less than $50,000 in donations each year, all from local companies and a few fundraisers. The Beasons will learn after the concert how much VetsAid will contribute to their initiative.

“We found out Saturday morning and just thought, ‘Wow, this is crazy.’ We’re shocked,” said Beason’s wife, Angela Beason, who helps run the organization. “To be included with these bigger organizations… just to be thought of, it’s amazing. Even if it’s just $5, it’s $5 to help the kids.”

Walsh has been part of other veterans causes in the past. He’s given to veterans charities, and he’s offered free guitar lessons to wounded servicemembers at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, according to a news release.

He cited the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — and President Donald Trump’s recent announcement to increase troops in Afghanistan — as a reason for more urgency in supporting veterans organizations.

“We’ve only begun to appreciate the long-term impacts on our troops home from Iraq,” Walsh said. “And in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history continues to drag on with no end in sight. Just last month this administration committed to send thousands more of our young men and women into the conflict with no defined goal or strategy. I had to do something, and seeing as though rock-and-roll seems to be what I do best, it’s also the least I could do for those who have served and continue to serve.”

Ticket information and more information about the initiative can be found at VetsAid.org.

wentling.nikki@stripes.com
Twitter: @nikkiwentling

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