While in Ramstein Chely also makes a special trip, at her request, to visit the wounded at Landstuhl Medical Hospital and The Fisher House Foundation.
MONDAY, JULY 24TH:
I have been in Europe since July 20th this time – I now travel to another city in Holland where Chely Wright will perform at Schinnen for the NATO troops.
Our bus driver and bus arrived last night. Same company I have used for years and LOVE. We left the hotel at 9 am and it took us about 3 ½ hours to drive from Emmen to Schinnen. Never knew Holland was so BIG. There were bunks and two lounges on the bus….definitely the way to travel. I spent most of the trip talking to Michael – the bus driver – and catching up on the “gossip”!
Arrive Schinnen and were greeted by our hosts. They took us to secure our ID cards (even though we had id photos made in the U.S. and sent to AFE for this very purpose. Ball got dropped somewhere) made and then we departed to the Hotel in Maastricht. Beautiful little town and is supposedly the best shopping in all of the Netherlands. Good thing I don’t have any free time again. Encountered our first set of challenges. The street was too narrow for our bus. Does that sound familiar from my Italy trip with Lee Ann Womack last month? So, we had to unload our luggage and walk down the street to the hotel. I confirmed that the hotel had wireless internet before we accepted the booking. Upon checking in, we were told that it only worked on the first floor rooms on the street side. So, I asked for those rooms. Of course, it did not work when we got into our rooms. So I am on a dial up connection paying a high price to answer my emails.
No air conditioning and it is MUCH hotter here. We do have fans in our rooms and have moved them on top of tables in front of the windows but it still doesn’t seem to be helping.
Everyone went walking around and I went to the lobby with Chely to do an interview for a local radio station. Then I treated everyone to dinner at an outdoor café near the hotel. It is much cooler outside than in our hotel rooms. Came back to the hotel and am still working at 1:00 am. Hotel doesn’t have a gym but there is one nearby but it doesn’t open until 9:30 am. Will decide tomorrow if I am going to the gym or going to run but I will definitely do one or the other!
Performance will take place tomorrow night at Schinnen.
TUESDAY, JULY 25TH:
Absolutely MISERABLE night last night because of the heat. I have a clock with a thermometer on it and at 2 am it was 91 degrees in my room. Didn’t get much sleep. Got up and walked a few blocks to the gym – where it was air conditioned. I stayed longer than normal just for the cool air!!
Came back and got dressed for the show. Hate it when I shower and 10 minutes later I need another one. I checked to make sure that our lodging at Ramstein tomorrow has air conditioning because it is in the high 90’s there. It doesn’t! But, we were able to find hotel rooms at a much higher price that does. So, I switched us!!
The show was not at Schinnen…we just got our ID cards issued there. Show was at JFC Brunssum – a NATO base. I went over with the guys for sound check and it was in a 350 capacity movie theatre with a balcony. Great venue but no air conditioning there either. Went back over to pick up Chely and when we got back for her sound check, the power was out. Massive power failure on half the base! She finally was able to sound check – almost an hour late. Then she had to meet a Major General and several other VIPS and do an interview with the local base paper. My friend – LTC Tim Sughre – came over from his new “home base” in Belgium. He is the person who took such good care of us in Afghanistan in September 2005 and the one Lee Ann Womack performed for in Italy last month. I did not tell Chely and the guys he was coming as I wanted to surprise them. I was busy doing something and he slipped in before I knew it. I think they were surprised though….?
Show started about 15 minutes late. But, Chely was AWESOME. I never tire of listening to her show. She got so many compliments after the performance and of course, she signed autographs for everyone in line.
We all went to dinner on the base and then departed for our HOT HOTEL. Brunssum went out of their way to make our visit first class and it was sincerely appreciated. We had about 300 people attend the concert and were told that was a great number because there is such a small American population on that facility.
Made lots of good contacts for future tours and look forward to bringing more entertainment their way in the future.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 26TH:
Today we bussed from Holland to Germany. I moved everyone off the Ramstein Air Base Lodging into hotel accommodations in Landstuhl because the rooms at Ramstein were not air conditioned. Everyone is REALLY looking forward to the air conditioned rooms. It is the hottest summer in Europe they have had in a long time.
We arrived Landstuhl right on time and checked in. All the rooms had air conditioning as promised and it is a beautiful hotel! Very nice for the group. Our bus driver, Michael, had to leave for Munich and Andy from his bus company took over our tour.
Chely and I immediately departed for Landstuhl Medical Center to visit the wounded. Our escorts met us at the door and whisked us upstairs. We were scheduled to visit a lot of patients but Chely loves to have lengthy conversations with each one (which they sincerely appreciate) and we were only able to visit with 6 patients. But, those 6 impacted our lives forever. The first 3 we met were in the same room and all three were named “Brian”. The second two were in the same room and both named “Jeff”. I asked the escorts if they were deliberately putting them into the rooms by “name”. J
All were very young — the oldest was 29. Injuries ranged from 2nd degree burns to shrapnel and gunshot wounds. All were amazing young men. They were so proud of what they have done for their country and all talked about the “boys” they had to leave behind in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kyrgyzstan. I had visited all the countries where the young men were injured.
It’s different when visiting these patients than when we visit Walter Reed or Bethesda. Their injuries are so “fresh”…just having been injured as recently as the day before. Our medics in the AOR’s are doing an incredible job prior to flying them to Landstuhl and all the young men had nothing but praise for the care they received and are still receiving. They will all soon go from Landstuhl to Walter Reed, Bethesda, and the Burn Center in San Antonio.
The young man who had a gunshot wound to his head (just the day before!) choked up when he started talking about his injury. Tears started rolling down his checks when he talked about the guys who took care of him when he was shot. At one point, he looked over at the officers who were escorting us and said, “I’m sorry. But, don’t think I’m a baby just because I’m crying.” One of the officer’s responded, “For Pete’s Sake. You’ve just been shot in the head! You are entitled to cry!”
Each soldier and marine told us how they were injured. Most of them never saw it coming and would not have been able to avoid the attack. One young man was in a convoy that was attacked and talked about the mistakes they made that should not have happened that allowed them to be vulnerable. They were all thankful that no one else was killed in the attacks.
After leaving the Medical Center, we went to Fisher House. Both houses were full, but all but a few people were at the hospital for treatment. We met one darling little boy who was in for tests to find out why he was consistently banging his head on the floor! Then there was a little girl who Chely fell in love with because she said she looked exactly like her sister when she was young. She was there because she had tubes put in her ears that morning. Obviously, she was fully recovered because she was a little “ball of fire”. We also met one soldier being treated for cancer and an older retired soldier who had knee replacement surgery.
You leave these visits with so much emotion inside and really just want some “quiet” time to process what you have seen and heard. I could easily devote this entire report to the things I learned about these amazing young men but somehow it seems like an invasion of their privacy to do so. I always make notes on them so that I can go back and look at them and remember what they sacrificed for my freedom and keep them in my prayers. Someone said that Cher had just been there and that she was going into Iraq but I haven’t heard anything about it. Evidently she is lobbying Congress regarding the protective gear for the troops.
I went to dinner with our band and a couple of our escorts. We had a really nice meal at a local restaurant and then I went back to answer emails most of the night…wireless internet instead of dial up, thank goodness! Went to bed at 2:00 am with a 4:00 am wake-up call.
Wednesday, July 26:
Today I depart to meet Chely Wright in Ramstein, Germany to do a show for the military. Judy is currently with her, but once I arrive, Judy will leave for another festival in Europe.
Had a very easy check-in, left for Atlanta on time, no problems. We ended up being late departing Atlanta because of an equipment change. Once on board, there were lots of empty seats so everyone was able to move around. It was so nice to have an entire row to myself. Didn’t sleep much on the flight, boy, will I pay for that later!
Thursday, July 27:
I was supposed to meet Judy once I arrived in Frankfurt and hand off some medication for her migraines. Unfortunately, with my plane being delayed, I missed her.
Andy, our driver, picked me up and just as we were about to arrive at the hotel in Landstuhl, he received a phone call from Tietze saying Chely was not feeling well. Got in my room and called her. She had a major crick in her neck from 2 nights ago and had developed into a huge knot and she could not move her neck. This is not good since she has a show tonight. As I had just arrived, Clay went with Chely to the Landstuhl Medical Center to get checked out and I went with the band for load in and sound check. Chely got a shot, couple of meds, some food and went back to the hotel to rest.
On our way to the base for load in, we had a bit of trouble getting me on base. The others had their ID’s made in Schinnen and since I was not there, the driver was going to “sign me on”. One of the guards working the gate was German and had no clue what we were talking about. He took my passport to the security guard shack for about 10 minutes, and then another guard came over and asked me to go to another office with him. I got in there and they said they were not aware of any musicians coming on base, so they made a couple of phone calls and were sending someone over to get me in. Again, Andy asks, “Can I not sign her in?” and shows his ID. Then the guy behind the desk says “oh, yes, you can sign her in”! Guess we just needed to ask one of the US soldiers. After about 30 minutes, finally, I am able to access the base! Had a bite to eat, load in, sound check and back to the hotel to rest for a while to rest.
Departed the hotel at 8:30pm, dropped the band at the venue and Chely and I went for her to tape a PSA. It was about safety and paying attention when you are driving, and not drinking, talking on the phone, messing with the radio, etc. Can’t wait to see it, she is such a natural!
Got to the venue, did a short m/g with some radio winners, and met a few friends of Kyle’s! 🙂 Chely began thanking everyone during her show for making this date possible and she mentioned SFS. (How nice!) Well, then she mentions me and makes me get on stage with her! I could have died! How embarrassing!!! Chely did a great show, the audience loved her. Chely really interacts with the audience, even had one guy who was on the phone give her his phone so she could talk to his wife! She sang “Bumper” and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house, and she received a standing ovation! What an amazing song in itself, but when you are there with the people that song is about, it takes on a whole new meaning and gives you a whole new understanding and appreciation for what they do everyday so that we can enjoy our liberties. Chely signed autographs for about 1 ½ hours and we all went back to the hotel for a couple of hours of sleep.