Musician Charlie Daniels visits troops in Germany
WIESBADEN, Germany — It was no ordinary autograph session. For the Tennessee National Guardsmen who met Charlie Daniels and his band Thursday, it was like seeing an old friend.
“We just wanted to come over and give them a little distraction for a while — bring a piece of home,” said Daniels, who is from North Carolina but has lived in Tennessee for the past 37 years.
The lunch and autograph session with about 60 soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 115th Field Artillery was part of a weeklong trip that included a visit to wounded troops at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center on Tuesday and a Wednesday performance in Kosovo. The visit was to culminate Thursday night with a scheduled concert at Wiesbaden Army Airfield.
The Tennessee field artillery soldiers are serving as provisional military police and have been filling in for deployed MPs since March, guarding and patrolling bases in Stuttgart, Heidelberg, Mannheim and Kaiserslautern.
“For a lot of these guys, they’ve spent 20 years in the Guard and they have never got to do a real-world mission and so this is their payoff — this is what they’ve been training for their career,” said Sgt. 1st Class Scott Dollar, who has served in the National Guard for 14 years. “They can look back and say, ‘I spent a career in the Guard, but I spent a year serving my country.’”
“We all love the Charlie Daniels Band, of course,” Dollar said. “But, as of late, I really appreciated the inspirational stuff he was putting out … and I appreciated him coming over here and visiting our guys. It means a lot to us.”
Daniels said performing for the military is his way of serving. With songs such as “In America,” “Still in Saigon,” and “It’s Not a Rag, It’s a Flag,” his music reflects his fierce patriotism.
“I can’t carry a gun, but I can carry an instrument,” said Daniels, 67. “I can’t serve myself, but I can certainly serve the ones that do.”
Daniels said that what touched him the most this week was the spirit of the wounded soldiers at Landstuhl.
“What really got me … was the spirit of these kids, because all they could talk about was, ‘I want to go back downrange,’” he said.
The country singer’s voice wavered as he described the condition of a young soldier who had been shot in the arm and another whose legs had been amputated below the knee.
“The soldier told me when his arm got shot, that he asked the sergeant major to put a tourniquet on and put the rifle in his other hand,” Daniels said. “I wish everybody in our country could come over here and spend an hour walking around, talking to those kids to find out what true patriotism is all about.”
While at Landstuhl, Daniels also spoke briefly with Thomas Hamill, the civilian contractor kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents and rescued Sunday by American soldiers.
“I just happened to be at the right place at the right time,” Daniels said. “I told him, ‘Man, you’re a popular guy back home, you could probably run for office.’”
Daniels said that this trip will definitely inspire some new music.
“I want to write something that reflects the attitude of those kids up there in the hospital,” he said. “I don’t know if I can do it, or if I’m capable of writing something that will really reach the depths of … the way that they feel. I don’t know if I can do it or not. But, I’ll sure try.”