CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Just before midnight on June 4, two helicopters touched down at Camp Fallujah’s eastern landing zone, stirring up dust in the moonlight. Out of the dust cloud appeared country music star Toby Keith and rock legend Ted Nugent.
The pair of performers heartily shook the hands of the awaiting escort staff and were whisked away to the base chapel where a crowd of I Marine Expeditionary Force Marines and sailors anxiously awaited their arrival.
As Keith was back stage getting ready for the show, he explained coming out here was the least he could do for all the men and women who put themselves in danger every day.
“I just want to see some lights go on in their eyes, hearts shine and bring them a piece of American pride,” the country music star said.
The I MEF Morale, Welfare and Recreation office worked in cooperation with I MEF Headquarters Group to bring the concert here.
I MHG Marines provided the elbow grease necessary to make the concert possible, according to Chief Warrant Officer 3 John F. Kauffman the I MEF MWR liaison officer.
“They did a great job,” providing security, transportation and stage set-up, he said.
Both performers took the stage around midnight, thanked the Marines for the opportunity to perform, and then launched into a mini-concert featuring hit songs by each artist including Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever” and Keith’s “Angry American (Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue).”
“People in the crowd did not have to be a country or rock fan at all to enjoy the show,” said Lance Cpl. Danielle T. Doth, a Lexington, Ky., native, and a logistics clerk with the I MHG embarkation office. “They just played their songs and boosted the morale of the crowd.”
At the end of the concert, Gunnery Sgt. Donald M. Drzewiecki, the I MHG career retention specialist, was pulled on stage with Keith and Nugent.
“The roadie gave my guitar to Ted, and he said ‘Let me show you something,’ then played my guitar,” Drzewiecki said. “Ted was my hero when I was a kid growing up in Chicago.”
Drzewiecki served as the opening act for his childhood hero by strumming his guitar and singing for the crowd of hundreds before the pair arrived.
“The thing that kept the crowd going was not so much the music, but the comedy of the two greats up on stage,” added Drzewiecki. “Overall they were both great together. The fact of how late it was didn't matter to the crowd.”
After the show, many Marines and sailors came up on stage to have autographs signed and pose for photos with the musicians. Some even brought their own guitars to have autographed.
“I don’t think anybody knew what to expect,” said Doth, who worked as part of the escort staff. She enjoyed the fact that “the guys and gals were able to forget a little of their worries and laugh a little and just have fun.”
Shortly after 1:00 a.m., the performers left the chapel and boarded the bus back to the LZ.
Reflecting on the chance meeting of his childhood hero in Iraq Drzewiecki said, “(It) made me realize that today's idols are just normal people like you and me.”
On their way back, Nugent took a moment to communicate his respect for U.S. Marines to members of the escort staff.
“It’s a powerful force within my American dream to be the best I can be, whether it’s just jamming, or showing my patriotism,” Nugent said. “I’m surrounded with the spirit and dedication of professionalism.
“I’ve always used the analogy in my professional life and in my home life that if your going to work for me, you’re going to be like a Marine. You’ve got to be the very best. Whether it’s my musicians, my road manager or my kids.”