AL ASAD, Iraq -- Shouts of “Toby! Toby! Toby!” were harmoniously belted by service members yearning for an encore performance during a concert at the Al Asad stadium.
Catering to his fans, country music star Toby Keith performed his hit single “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue,” to close out an hour-long concert held, May 25.
“I have always had great respect for people in the military,” said Keith. “They are a different breed of cat, they are tough (people). This is what they do for a living. I look at it like my song writing and singing, that’s what I do for a living and Soldiers, Marines and Sailors come out here and get it on. This is what they are trained to do and signed up to do.
I can come over here and bring them a piece of America, a piece of home.”
Before performing his hit singles like “Beer for My Horses,” “I Love This Bar,” and “Whiskey Girl”, Keith took time to meet with individual service members.
“It is really nice to see men like Toby who are willing to talk to ordinary men and women,” said Lance Cpl. Jacob Payne, a motor transport mechanic for Marine Aircraft Group 29. “I really appreciate him coming out here to show his support for all of the troops.”
In an effort to make sure that nobody was left out during his concert, Keith changed the lyrics in “American Soldier” to “American Warriors,” leaving many service members very satisfied.
“The best part of the concert was when he changed the lyrics,” said Payne. “I appreciate that he did that to cover all branches of the military.”
Keith began holding overseas concerts after 9-11, because just like many Americans, he felt he needed to do something.
“I was real busy back home working on my career, spent a lot of time trying to get to the top of the game,” explained Keith. “After 9-11, I was like everyone else; I felt I needed to do my part. I came over and did a tour, then I went back home I had a whole new respect for what the Marines and Soldiers were doing.”
After experiencing his first tour overseas, Toby decided that one visit was just not enough.
“(After touring) I started meeting (the service members) families at shows,” said Toby. “They would come to my shows and say ‘You met my daughter or son over at so and so’. I got to know their families and came back the next year. It kept growing from there.”
Although Toby knows that he is helping lift spirits with his overseas concerts, he also believes it is his duty to keep the families in the states informed.
“Somebody has got to report back home and tell the truth,” said Keith. “Not only I am I bringing a piece of home and showing my respect and support, but also it gives me a chance to educate myself about what’s going on in these conflicts. When somebody asks me what I think about this or that I can give them an educated answer.”
Toby believes that the only way to get the truth behind anything is first-hand knowledge.
“The media wants everything to be political and it comes down to whether each issue is right or wrong,” said Keith. “You have to make your own mind up, you can’t sit in Hollywood or New York City and watch the local news and say ‘Hey I’m going to make an opinion on this war.’”
For many service members having Keith perform is a testament to his character and care for the Americans deployed to Al Asad.
“It really shows who he really is, a man that is willing to come out here and show his support for us,” said Payne. “Every time someone comes to show their appreciation for the troops, it really gets our morale up. It is important that we get this type of support.”