***image1***It was an unusual pairing of VIPs, but one that had patients and staff at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center buzzing.
Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year Toby Keith and Motor City Madman and rock legend Ted Nugent stepped off an Army Blackhawk May 30 to visit the wounded at LRMC before playing a free USO concert in Illesheim, Germany. First was lunch at the dining facility. Mr. Nugent, an avid hunter, was pleased with the menu.
“Give me the biggest, greasiest, nastiest rib you can get your hands on,” said Mr. Nugent to one of the servers.
After lunch, the visit turned into an autograph and photo session as the two men tried to make their way to various patient wards.
“Snuggle me like you love me,” said Mr. Nugent as several nurses gathered around for a photo.
Once on the wards, patients gathered around to describe their injuries and receive a morale boost.
“Hello young warrior,” said Mr. Nugent as he walked into the rooms decked out in a large cowboy hat, red-white-and-blue sunglasses and a desert camouflage top. “Where are you from? Vermont? I love that state. Big deer up there.”
One Soldier, confined to a wheel chair, leg in a cast, patch over one eye and shrapnel wounds throughout his face and neck, began to sob as he told Mr. Keith what had happened to him. Mr. Keith, already shaken from a visit to the intensive care unit and donning dark sunglasses, used humor to defuse the tense situation.
“Hey, buddy, I’m telling you that 95 percent of America supports you,” said Mr. Keith. “We’ve got five percent of hippies who don’t support you, and we’re beating them up.”
“Our prayers are with you, as are the prayers of every American, and there is a chant across the land,” said Mr. Nugent. “The media does not represent what’s going on. The heart and soul of America is with you.”
The two men spoke with dozens of wounded service members. However, their trip to the ICU was the most moving.
“Words can’t describe how I felt,” said Mr. Keith. “That was an emotional roller coaster with negative G’s. I had to walk away.”
“The truth doesn’t get swayed by unfortunate conditions,” said Mr. Nugent. “The truth is that evil has to be crushed, and you have to send in strong warriors to do that. The emotional tendency is that if we avoid evil we will limit casualties, but in the final analysis it’s the exact opposite.”
There were, however, some light-hearted moments in the ICU. One came from a 73-year-old Korean War veteran who had Mr. Keith doubled over with laughter.
“He asked me, ‘You still feeding beer to those horses?’ I said, ‘Yes, Sir.’”
That question was in reference to Mr. Keith’s duet with Willie Nelson, titled “Whiskey for my men, beer for my horses.”
Mr. Keith said he tries to perform a USO tour for the servicemembers every two years.