American Idol finalist Bo Bice and comedian Jackie Martling traveled to Kuwait and Iraq to perform for the troops stationed at various remote camps. This was Bo’s second tour for Stars for Stripes, and his first tour to Iraq. Bo traveled to Afghanistan in February, 2008 on his first tour for the troops. This was Jackie’s first tour to perform for the troops. Jackie’s jokes definitely raised the spirits of the troops he entertained and Bo, along with his full band, rocked out to a full one hour performance. Both entertainers signed autographs for troops after each performance.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 27 – TUESDAY, OCTOBER 28:
Today “we” left Nashville for Kuwait via Washington D. C. “We” is Bo Bice and his band plus comedian Jackie Martling. Jackie is meeting us in DC. Since my visit to the Persian Gulf at the end of September, I’ve been to Swtizerland, DC, and Japan! Time is flying by too quickly.
Everyone was on time at the airport and check in was painless. We were actually one bag less than our 2 per person limit which was great. Our flight left on time and I found out that one of Bo’s guys – Adam – was taking his very first flight EVER. And our first flight from Nashville to Dulles was on one of those little puddle jumper planes that I HATE. It was windy leaving Nashville so we had some turbulence but it wasn’t horrible. The landing at Dulles was so typical. Every flight I take, it’s about a 45 minute flight and then 30 minutes of circling. And the circling is always in horrible turbulence. Same scenario today. We finally landed and went into the Red Carpet Lounge. Jackie was there waiting for us.
As background, Bo and one musician and a sound guy went to Afghanistan with me in February. They were so awesome and signed up immediately for this tour. This time he has a full band and will definitely ROCK the troops. I met Jackie in Nashville a few months ago when he performed at Zanie’s Comedy Club. He’s a super sweet guy, too. This is going to be a great trip.
I have been in the Lounge for 5 hours now and our flight to Kuwait is leaving on time. When we boarded, a man came over and started talking to me. He was military in civilian clothes and I learned he is good friends with a lot of my buddies – Mark Wills, Karri Turner, Darryl Worley, etc. He was involved in several of their visits to Iraq. Really nice guy. As we were talking, another man boarded and was sitting right in front of me. Jeff (my new friend) started talking to him and I realized that I knew him as well. It was the CSM for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and I met him years ago at the Pentagon. We stayed in touch via email and I saw him again a couple of years ago in Afghanistan. That man is my hero. The stories he told me had a tremendous impact on me and the way I live my life. He retired from the military but now works as a military advisor for a corporation. The guy sitting one seat over from me was another entertainment contractor who brings over a lot of non-celebrity tours, so I talked to him about “business”. He is escorting several Martial Arts Guys who will be putting on a big demonstrations in the AOR.
I gave all the flight attendants and pilots guitar picks and coins. The Purser came over and talked to me at length about what we are doing. I explained that we all donate our time. She immediately said that after the meal, she would move me, Bo, and Jackie up to first class and move our musicians/crew into business class so everyone could get some sleep. I told her I never asked for preferential treatment when there was military personnel on board and sitting in coach. However, she moved us all up after the meal. Seats in first class are so awesome because they lay completely flat. I slept and slept and slept….but not as long as Jackie. I didn’t think he was going to wake up before we landed! J The movies totally sucked, so it was a good thing I was so tired.
All our luggage and bags made it and Broadie (our escort) was waiting for us. Short trip to the hotel and all our rooms were ready. “SpoonR” – our escort from the Honky Tonk Tailgate Party was staying at our hotel (compliments of my connections with the hotel). He has been in Iraq for 6 months and all he could talk about was “taking a real shower” (which is pretty much what they all miss the most. I told our guys that when we arrived, he would probably still be in the shower no matter what time he had arrived at the hotel. As we were checking in, the front desk said that they had been calling his room to tell him of our arrival as he had requested but he was not answering. I told them I’d bet he was in the shower. A few minutes later, he came running into the lobby – all squeaky clean. He’d been in the shower! J
Got everyone in their rooms and I had to spend over an hour answering email. The guys were hungry and went to eat. SpoonR and I went to the gym and he ran for 40 minutes on the treadmill while I did an hour. By the way, he got the nickname “SpoonR” from me and the tour we did together this past September. That’s all I’m going to say about that one. LOL.
I went into the restaurant to eat and Jackie had just finished. SpoonR joined us and Jackie told jokes while we told Iraq “stories”. I’ve been in the room answering emails for 3 hours now and really want to go to bed. It’s after 1 am and I need to get up at 6 am for our first show in Kuwait. A Blues Tour is here and SpoonR is escorting them. Our escort – Colonel Fun – arrives early tomorrow morning.
Going to be a great, fun tour. I can’t say enough wonderful things about Bo, Jackie and all the guys on this trip. Truly wonderful Americans and I’m so lucky to be escorting them.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 29TH:
Three and a half hours sleep then up to work out in the Health Club. A quick “egg white” breakfast with SpoonR and then off to the shower and email until time to depart to Camp Arifjan. Have been to that Camp many times and it’s a good one for performances. First stop was the DFAC for lunch. Then our techs went to the stage and Bo, Jackie, musicians and I went to visit the Commander’s Office. One of his staff members gave us the briefing and it was the best I’ve ever had at this base. So good we ran 30 minutes over on our time and had to hustle everyone out and on to the next stop quickly. Musician went to the stage for sound check and Bo, Jackie, SpoonR and I went to the hospital. There was only one “patient” there and he was en route from Afghanistan back to the U.S. The visit was more for the staff of the hospital which is very important. Three women were having birthdays so Bo and Jackie sang “Happy Birthday” to them. Spent about 30 minutes longer there than we were supposed to as well but it’s all good. Next stop was to see the Wounded Warriors but we were so late, everyone had left by then. We went to the stage so Bo could sound check.
It has sprinkled rain off and on all afternoon and just as we finished sound check, the heavens not only opened up, but it started hailing, Unheard of in Kuwait. Thankfully all our gear was covered but the rain blew so hard it soaked all the cables and the drum kit. The locals were picking up the hail and either eating it (yuck) or pressing it into the shape of a snow ball.
I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to perform but it finally stopped raining. Then there were literally “lakes” of water everywhere. I had to hitch a ride on SpoonR’s back several times en route to the DFAC. When we finished dinner, the water had receded by about 50% and we knew we’d be able to do the show. We started 30 minutes late but Jackie did a great job. He as so funny and the audience loved him. Bo and his guys came on stage and absolutely ROCKED the place. The crowd was big but would have been much larger if the storm had not come through. Bo played for about an hour and then both Bo and Jackie signed autographs and took photos with everyone in line. The autograph line wasn’t really all that long because so many of the troops had to get up at 3 am tomorrow to begin their work day.
Found out that we can’t get a flight out tomorrow until 8 pm. We were supposed to perform at 8 pm. So, we are going to give Ali Al Salem, Kuwait a show tomorrow afternoon and then when we land, do autographs while our techs set up the production for our show. Should be able to perform by 10 pm if flight out is on time. Won’t have access to email once I leave here.
Got back to the hotel a little bit after 11 pm and Colonel “Fun” (as he likes to be called) was waiting for us. SpoonR has to depart at 2:30 am for the airstrip to escort the Blues Tour. Colonel Fun will be our escort for the remainder of the tour.
It’s now 3:21 am and I am very tired. Hope there’s not too many embarrassing errors in this report!
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 30TH:
I went to bed thinking how wonderful it was going to be to get FIVE hours of sleep – truly a snow day for me. Lights out immediately at 2:30 am. At 5:30 am my phone in my room rings. It’s Broadie saying our flight time has changed and we won’t have time to do a show at Ali before we depart. I tried to go back to sleep until at least 6:30 am since there was no one I could call that early to revise our schedule. Didn’t happen. Finally got up at 6:15 am after lying there sorting everything out in my mind. Went to the gym and tried to work off my frustration. Didn’t work. Had another egg white omelet for breakfast and then took my shower.
Started working on exactly what we would be doing that day. We were going to arrive in Tallil too late for our performance which really hurts because they have had so many shows cancel lately. We are going to try and give them a performance Friday morning before we depart to Camp Delta. We still departed the hotel at 1:00 pm for Ali Al Salem. Once there, we went straight to “The Flex” which is their “game room”. Alan – my contact – had done a great job of rounding up a crowd of folks to see Bo and Jackie. There was a small PA set up and Bo sang 2 songs with his guitar and Jackie told jokes. I was sitting with Bo and Adam and I was laughing more at Bo than at Jackie. Bo was laughing so hard he was doubled over sometimes. He and Jackie just really “clicked” this tour. I’m thankful that Jackie fits in so well with all the guys – and with me, of course. Makes for such a FUN tour.
We had a little time to kill, so Colonel Fun and I walked over to the DFAC for dinner. I feel like every time I have any time alone with him, I unload all my complaints on him. Really hope he doesn’t feel that way. It’s just that he is the “man in charge” of all the entertainment in the area, so he gets to hear my bitching the most.
Went back to The Flex and Bo and Jackie signed autographs and took photos with the new crowd of folks who had gathered for a Texas Hold ‘Em tournament. I met the nicest Airman — Andy. He’s going home and thought that he might be on our flight but learned that he is flying MilAir. He lives in Lancaster, CA and Jackie invited him to come see him perform in LA next Saturday night because it’s Andy’s birthday. Like I said, nice people I travel with and nice people we meet.
We finally went to our C-130 for our flight to Tallil. Flight crew was out of Texas again. I was strapping in beside Bo when one of the guys in the crew said, “Mam, this is your lucky day. The pilots want you to sit up on deck with them.” See, boobs still win “draw” even when hidden behind a flak vest! J
The flight crew was super nice. Put me on a headset but I only got to talk for a few minutes because the flight was less than 30 minutes. Tallil is the Camp in Iraq that is closest to the Kuwait border. I gave them gifts and told them we needed a ride from Baghdad back to Kuwait on the 3rd.
Our escorts in Tallil were waiting for us and took us immediately to lodging. Everyone was hungry, so we dropped our bags and chilled for a few minutes waiting for Midnight Chow to begin at 11:30 pm.
In a perfect world, we would tour the Ziggurat (Birthplace of Abraham) tomorrow morning at 8 am. I was there for Easter with Charlie Daniels years ago. We were allowed to climb up the steps of the Temple and go underneath in the “tunnels”. It was awesome. Since my last visit, the Iraqis have taken it back over and don’t allow tours anymore. We got special permission to take our guys there. We would then do an acoustic performance in a private room at the DFAC at 11 am and have an afternoon flight to Camp Delta where we would have our big full band evening performance. However, we were informed that our flight MIGHT depart at 8 am tomorrow morning. Sure hope we find out something very soon because I am so tired.
Camp Delta is where I was last month with the Honky Tonk Tailgate Party Tour and Siren. It’s a pretty remote FOB right on the border of Iran. You can actually walk up a hill, look over the wall, and see Iran! We did that last month when we were here. Not much to see though.
Went to DFAC and had an omelet and grits. Found out we are leaving at 8 am which means bags out at 5 am. Ouch. And, we stay here at this camp and don’t even give them a show. Not good. 🙁
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 31ST:
So 2 hours sleep and have to go to the terminal to sit for 3 hours. They would not allow us to pre-manifest. Of course, we get over there and they don’t need to see anyone. Someone collected our passports and took them to be processed and when they brought them back, I took them and handed them out. Several people were outside and so I also took the ID card for Colonel Fun and decided to see how “fun” he really is. I tucked it into my purse and decided to wait for him to ask for it.
Flight was on time and when we loaded, I gave the flight crew gifts. Again, they asked me to sit up on the deck with them and this time there was space for one other person. I got Bo up there because the pilot was a young female who was a fan. They put us on headsets and she seemed to be “in training”. They kept asking who was going to Al Kut and who was going to Balad. I told them we were going to Delta but they said the plane wasn’t going to Delta. The flight crew decided that Balad must be Delta and I assured them that it was not. However, I would have loved for them to make that mistake and take us to Balad where my friend is the General.
We landed and found that Al Kut is also Delta. They unloaded us quickly because the flight crew saw “weather” to the North of us where they had to fly. After I got off, one of the crew had to chase me down and give me my purse (with everything I own in it including my passport and Colonel Fun’s ID!) and my helmet! I had left everything on the flight deck. The female pilot had done a great job flying us over and landing the huge aircraft. Our escorts from the past trip in September were waiting for us. The same person is also the “Mayor” and everyone is eally nice people to work with. We are all in one tent again with a blanket separating the bunks. I don’t trust these guys for one minute not to pull a joke on me.
The DFAC had just closed when we landed so we had to wait about an hour before going to eat. I knew this would definitely be somewhere Colonel Fun would be using his ID and so far, he had not missed it. All my group knew that I had it, so we got in line and went through and watched Colonel Fun step out of line and start frantically patting himself down. Now, let me tell you about Scott (Colonel Fun). He has been in the Army for 22 years and everything is “by the book”. Also, he blushes faster and more often than anyone I’ve ever known. He was opening every pocket on his uniform and patting himself and getting redder and redder. I knew he would rather do anything than have to admit he didn’t have it. We were all standing back watching the process and trying not to laugh. I felt sorry for him and handed it to him but now I wish I had kept the “fun” going a little bit longer. But, I remembered what a very wise person once told me, “pay-backs are hell”! J
This is the DFAC where I had the great stir fry last time. They didn’t have it for lunch and am hoping it’s available for dinner. Colonel Fun got a huge bowl of Mocha Almond Chocolate ice cream and ate it right in front of me!!! Talk about pay-backs! There are a lot of guys from El Salvador working on this base and when I left the DFAC, they were all staring so hard that the band teased me unmercifully.
The guys were going to sleep for a while and I went to check internet. Had 144 new messages since we left Kuwait yesterday and that is even with my “away message” turned on. I stopped by the female latrine which is about a quarter of a mile from lodging. I remember last month that I had to go several times in the middle of the night and it is so dark here. This time there is a huge sink hole that you have to step around to get to the door. While I was in there, someone started banging on the door and yelling in a foreign language. I yelled that I would be out in a minute and when I walked outside, there were about a dozen El Salvadorian workers waiting to clean the facility. They were all staring and smiling at me. Probably some of the same ones from the DFAC.
I laid down for one hour and set my alarm to be sure and get up. The escorts were supposed to pick up the musicians at 2:30 pm and Bo, Jackie and I at 3:30 pm. When I got up, the musicians were still there and no one was there to pick us up. I walked up to the Mayor’s Cell to find him and he gave us a ride to the stage. When we got to the stage, it had started raining pretty hard. The generator for the stage didn’t have any power and they had to wait for a supervisor to approve running a line. You’d think this would have been done weeks ago when they were offered the show. We left for dinner because it was raining too hard to sound check.
I walked the entire length of the DFAC twice looking for the Stir Fry bar but there wasn’t one tonight. Finally got a little bit of spaghetti with marina sauce and a salad. When we got back to the stage it was still raining and our production company did not want to plug in any of their equipment for fear of shocking someone. We made the decision to move it indoors in their MRW room. While they were tearing down the stage, Jackie entertained the brave men and women who had been standing there in the rain.
It is MISERABLE in Iraq when it rains because there is no drainage system. Remember that the dirt is fine “moon” dust and when it gets wet, it is like peanut butter. It sticks to your shoes like super glue except that every step you take, it splatters up on your pants legs. I had on tennis shoes with the big gel “bubbles” on the bottom and tons of deep “grooves” for the mud to sink into. Some of the guys only brought one pair of pants with them, so they are going to be wearing muddy clothes the rest of the trip. My group is so amazed that it actually “rains in the desert”. But, Iraq gets all the temperature changes. The mud will be here until Spring now and it will turn very cold before I’m back here in December. They even had snow here last year.
I had brought tiny little plastic pumpkins and lots of Halloween candy from the states for a special “treat” for everyone. I also brought really scary masks for everyone to wear out on stage.
Our crew got everything moved quickly and Jackie took the stage for about a half an hour. He killed them. They really love him here. But, he made a comment about my “big ass” so now I really will be cutting back on food intake! Then he and Bo and all the guys came out on stage wearing their masks and performed the first song in masks. It was so great and everyone in the audience was going crazy with their cameras. Bo did about an hour show and it was fantastic. We just found out that our flight time tomorrow isn’t until 3:30 pm which means we’ll miss our acoustic show at the FOB. Darn. I hate that we are missing shows so much.
After the show Bo and Jackie signed autographs for about an hour. Then the guys went with the Mayor to smoke cigars. I passed and explained that I only smoke cigars with Air Force Generals. That went over big with Army lifer Colonel Fun. LOL.
We went to midnight chow and I had an omelet and that’s it….got to watch out for my “big butt”! Stopped back at the Mayor’s Cell to check our flight time and Vanessa (our terrific escort) was told that the flight had been moved to 8:30 am and we had to be ready at 5:30 am. After a mild panic attack, she called someone else and found that we are still not leaving until 5:30 pm. I checked email for a few minutes and then we went to the tent.
Went to the latrine and showered because I know it is always crowded in the mornings. By the time I finished it was 2 am. Colonel Fun had advised us that we might see little “jackals” roaming around at night looking for food. Said they wouldn’t bother us. Yeah, right. I thought I heard something walking behind me when I left the latrine. As I said, it is so dark you can’t see anything without a flashlight and I was scared to shine my light behind me. I did about a 3 minute mile back to the tent!
I really wanted to get up and exercise tomorrow morning but the mud makes it impossible to jog and I don’t know where the gym is located. I could just start walking and ask someone but I’m afraid they will change our flight time again and I’d be late. So, best just to do a little something in the tent when I wake up.
Saturday, November 1st:
I can’t believe it is November already. October was a total blur with trips to Switzerland, DC, Japan and now Iraq. Today is also Bo’s birthday. He wanted one of the DCU tops and the Mayor agreed to find one for him. He is going to be so happy with that! I am going to have one of the little “Iraq” flags made for him when we get to Baghdad tomorrow. I hate that we are arriving so late. Even though our FOB show got cancelled, we were going to have an office call with General Odierno who is a long-time friend of mine. Am hoping we can re-schedule since we are there for two days.
I couldn’t sleep past 7:30 am because I had to go to the bathroom so bad. Had been holding it for hours because I didn’t want to hike all the way down to the latrine again. Finally got up and tried to dress quietly and “privately” without waking everyone up. I laid on my bunk and tried to wiggle my “big butt” into my jeans and succeeded in falling through the curtain that was separating the bunks. Fortunately, all the boys were still asleep. At least I hope they were!
Been working on this road report and am now going to go to the Mayor’s Cell to try and answer some emails!
Got the boys up at 11:30 am and we all went to the DFAC. After lunch, took Bo and Jackie to the TOC to sign some autographs and then to the flight line to wait for our plane. We got Bo a DCU and gave him and he was thrilled. It’s a bit too small so I have someone working on a larger one for him.
Our C130 arrived on time and the crew was from Wyoming. Gave everyone gifts but this time I was not invited to sit on the flight deck. But, it was only a 30 minute flight from Delta to Baghdad.
Our escorts met us and it felt like “home” to me because I know all of them and they are wonderful to work with. Told the boys to have their cameras ready because there was going to be a lot of photos they would want to take. For the first time, they have us lodged in one of the smaller palaces out on the lake and it’s perfect. One big room for the boys, a room for Bo and a room for me – each with our own bathroom. Sure hope we get to stay in this one again with Aaron.
We went to the Victory Stage and then had dinner at the DFAC. It’s an outdoor stage and the bleachers were packed with people. Show started on time and Jackie killed them. However, the stage is right next door to the Chapel and they were conducting Saturday night services when Jackie was telling his jokes. If I get banned from bringing entertainment here, it will have been worth it. Bo and his guys rocked and the audience loved them too. We had a birthday cake made for Bo and I was “hiding” it backstage. Only one of our escorts laid a stack of autograph sheets on top of it and managed to destroy a lot of the decorations. We took it out on stage for him after the last song and he reiterated that this is the best birthday he has ever had. Sure felt good to make this special for him.
Bo and Jackie signed autographs for a very long line and as we were leaving to go back to lodging, I got a text message from my daughter saying her water has broken and she is on the way to the hospital. She’s only 29 weeks pregnant with twins and too early. Of course, I am in Baghdad and can’t do anything about it…except worry, which will keep me up all night!
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 2ND:
Well, THAT was an interesting night. First call was to say that they had given Lindsey’s water had definitely broken and they had given her the medicine to stop the contractions. They gave her a steroid shot to help the babies’ lungs develop but it takes 48 hours to take effect, so they wanted her to wait a little longer. Lindsey called me at about 1:30 am and she was in ICU which scared me to death. But, she said everything was fine. Then I got a call at 5 am saying they were doing an emergency c-section. When no one had called me by 7 am, I started panicking. I finally reached someone and they told me that they could not do a c-section and she was having the twins “naturally”. Dear God! I was a wreck. Finally at around 10:30 pm Nashville time, Zac was born weighing 3 lbs and 6 ½ ounces, 16 ½ inches long. Then Zoe wasn’t born until 11:05 pm and she weighs 3 lbs 16 ounces and is 16 ½ inches long. Lindsey, Zac and Zoe are all doing great. The twins are breathing on their own, which is wonderful!
Since I didn’t sleep all night, I had a LOT of coffee for breakfast. Then, Bo, Jackie, John, Colonel Fun and I left for Rustamaya (a remote FOB) for an acoustic performance. The musicians and crew will be taking a tour of Al Faw palace and we’ll take Bo and Jackie on that tour as soon as we return.
It was a short flight to Rustamaya and the pilots Jackie, John and Bo’s first Blackhawk ride. They LOVED it. And, the pilots had a little fun with us. Since we were flying over the city of Baghdad most of the way, they usually can’t do much. But these pilots flew really high in the air. Then they dropped down and flew “the map of the earth” and actually followed the Tigris River. We were below the branches of the palm trees and barely above the top of the water and going very fast with lots of quick turns. It was fantastic!
Landed at Rustamaya and it really is a very remote base. The troops deployed there were very appreciative of our visit. We set up for the show and then went to the DFAC for dinner. The show was on an outdoor “boxing ring” stage. Jackie performed for about 45 minutes and the Bo sang a couple of songs. They signed autographs for everyone afterwards and here’s a weird one. This female soldier actually dropped her shorts and ask them them to sign her butt. And trust me, she did NOT need to be showing that ugly butt!!!!
After the shock wore off, we went to the flight line and let the boys play for a few minutes in the new up-armored humvees until the choppers arrived. Flight back to Baghdad was even shorter than the trip over.
We immediately went to the Al Far palace for that tour. Bo and Jackie loved it and were blow away by the things they saw. This is always the highlight of the tour for everyone. Our guys had toured it earlier in the day and Scott was going to let Bo hit golf balls off the balcony only someone stopped him and told him they were no longer allowed to do that. Turns out, one of Bo’s guys hit a Lt. Colonel with a golf ball as he was walking past!
Went from Palace (with TONS of photos) to stage for sound check and some frantic shopping at my friend’s jewelry shop and the embroidery shop. Got the things I need but Scott’s office will have to pick up and mail for me.
Had a quick dinner at the DFAC and then off to the show. I was able to talk to my daughter and find out everyone is still doing great, thank goodness. The show at this stage (Liberty) is always one of the best attended and tonight was no different. Jackie was really on a roll tonight and one lady told Bo his was the best show she has seen in the 3 years she has been in Iraq! Bo called me up on stage and thanked me publicly in front of the entire audience which you KNOW I love. I hate getting up in front of a group of people but I also feel guilty for being thanked for doing something that brings me so much happiness. Bo also brought Colonel Fun up on stage and thanked him and told him that “he had changed his life”. Then he brought all our MWR escorts up and everyone from Alabama to sing “Sweet Home Alabama”.
A great way to end the tour in Iraq. They signed autographs for about an hour and then it was “home” to the palace for us. We have to depart lodging at 6 am tomorrow. Ouch. Hope we can do a show in Kuwait tomorrow but not sure it’s going to work out.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 3rd AND TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 4TH:
Three hours sleep and everyone is ready to go although very tired. When the bus showed up to take us to the flight line, it was a smaller bus than the day before and our MWR escort informed us that all our luggage, Kevlar and passengers would have to go inside. Yeah, right. It always amazes me when this happens and it does time and again. The only thing I can figure out is that other people must not travel in “groups” like I do on all my travels. So, everyone could have slept another half hour because that’s how long it took for the other vehicle to arrive.
I had time to quickly check email and learned that the venue where we would be able to perform at Ali Al Salem was unexpectedly being used for a briefing. I asked about options for outdoors but evidently it has been raining non-stop since we left Kuwait. We were told that this is the most rain they have had there in years, maybe ever.
Things are much different when flying out of BIAP now. We used to go to this great DV Lounge on the Air Force side. Now they take us into a little lounge in the main PAX Terminal. Once we dropped our bags at the pallets and were manifested, we were able to go eat breakfast at the DFAC. I was in heaven because it was predominately Air Force. I don’t think I ate more than 2 bites because I sat with some of the Air Force guys and talked instead. Arrived back at the terminal to be told both our pallets wouldn’t fit on the C-130. Since our flight back to the U.S. is that night, we had to leave all our Sound Company gear to be brought over later that day. The Sound Company is out of Kuwait, so they can just pick it up later. Still, it made me nervous to leave ANYTHING behind because I know how these things can turn out.
When we boarded the aircraft, I gave all the guys their gifts. One of the flight crew said they wanted me, Bo, and Jackie to sit on the deck with them but wouldn’t be able to because they had a “General” coming on board to sit up there. I gave his Aide some cds and goodies and we all sat below. It was about an hour and 45 minute flight and when we landed at Ali, it was pouring rain. No outdoor show for us today.
We had some time to kill so we went to their DFAC and again I had a blast with all the Air Force personnel. I saw the General’s Aide that was on our flight and he introduced me to the One Star. I told them both about the show and invited them to attend. Also, Andy – the guy we met a few days ago – was there and his flight back home was leaving at 2 pm today. He won’t get to come to our show at 2:30 pm but is so excited to be going home. After lunch we went to the base exchanges but they were very small and didn’t have any of the things we wanted to purchase.
When we got back to the “Flex” to get ready for the show, the Air Force General was sitting right in front. Our little Air Force escort told me that Jackie might need to tone down his routine. I knew that would really put Jackie in a difficult, last minute position so I went over and talked to the General. He was totally fine — as I knew Air Force would be – with Jackie doing the same show he had done all around Theatre. He sat in front the entire performance and laughed as hard as everyone else in the audience. Bo sang a couple of songs and got very emotional at the end. This always happens at the end of the tours because as I said, every tour is life-changing for the participants. Bo had a guitar with him that he had taken to Afghanistan and on this tour. He asked everyone to sign it and he would auction it off for the wounded warriors when he returns to the U.S. Bo and Jackie signed autographs for about an hour and then we departed to the Radisson hotel for a shower and nice “after tour recap” dinner.
Right before the performance, we were told that Bo’s trunk that he had purchased for all the gifts he bought was not on the pallet with our personal luggage. I didn’t think we had ever tagged it with his name or any of our red or blue tape. Patrick stayed behind at the flight line to wait for the plane /with the pallet of production equipment. But, as I anticipated could happen, the pallet was not on the plane! I know that Coaxial (sound company) needs their equipment for another group coming in but there’s no way it will come in before we depart. I feel so badly for Bo because he had all this stuff in the trunk and was just carrying a small backpack. Dinner was not the festive occasion I would have hoped for at the end of the tour because we were all so worried about Bo’s case. I got on the phone and email and started trying to get our escorts in Iraq to go out to the flight line to find the missing piece. As I was leaving for the airport for our flight, one of the escorts in Baghdad emailed me that he was en route to the terminal to check on it. Hopefully by the time we arrive in DC, I’ll have some good news.
Check in was painless and we went to the Lounge to wait for our flight to be called. Jackie and Bo sat and reminisced about the great tour and how it had changed their lives forever. I know all the band and crew guys feel the same way. As many times as I come over, there is always something on every tour that does the same thing for me. I am so blessed to be able to come over here, meet the most wonderful men and women in the world, and say “thank you” to them in person. Can’t wait to get back over here for Thanksgiving with Aaron Tippin.
We boarded the flight and I gave our flight attendants gifts. A group of them came back and had photos made with Jackie and Bo. Only complaint I have is that they still won’t refill the water glass. Since I have to throw my water away when we go through security right before the gate, there’s nowhere to purchase more. I drink a LOT of water and am constantly having to go to the galley to “beg” for more.
We landed early and several passengers came back and had photos taken with Jackie and Bo. There was also a 2 Star Army General on the flight who was a big fan. I gave him a cd and some other goodies.
There was only one Immigration Officer working the long line of passengers when we landed in Dulles. It took forever to get through that line and into baggage claim. All our luggage made it and we had a little time to relax since we landed early. Flight to Nashville was on time and other than it being the tiny little puddle jumper, it was a smooth flight. Landed early in Nashville and gave big hugs and thank yous to everyone with a promise to see them this Saturday in North Carolina at a benefit for the troops. It was truly a great tour. I’ve gotten lots of truly heartfelt emails from the troops thanking Bo and Jackie for coming over.
The FIRST place I am going when I land is to the hospital to see my daughter and her new baby daughter and son!!!