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anakin, toby, and me
by todd w bush
5.23.05
humor

Between going to see the new Star Wars movie on Friday, going to the K Club on Saturday with most of my normal crew, and going to one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen on Sunday, I think it’s fair to say that even if the last three weekends I have in Germany suck donkey push, this past one will make it all worthwhile. And after that Faulkner-esque opening sentence, let’s get on with the recap.

Friday was the start of a four-week stretch of out-processing for me that will probably resemble the last five minutes before a tornado hits, i.e. mad chaos. I got my orders in (for all you military members, FIGMFO!!!) and started making appointments, phone calls, and visiting offices. To reward myself for starting early, I decided to visit the Broadway Kino theater in Landstuhl right off base to see Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. I’m not going to give you a review, but suffice to say the movie is incredible. When those of you who are fans and plan to see it finally do, you will see that the reason Anakin Skywalker turns to the Dark Side of the Force and becomes Darth Vader, turns all six movies into nothing less than a Shakespearean tragedy. Lofty words, sure, but believe me, Lucas pulled it off.

A couple of interesting things that happened at the theater made the trip memorable, even if the movie had sucked. The start time was 2 in the afternoon, so when I got there at 1:15, I was literally the first person in line. The girl who opened the door was wearing a spaghetti strap shirt that revealed quite a bit of cleavage, but her face was a cross between a pit bull and a pepperoni pizza. However, when we had gotten our tickets, coke and popcorn and sat down to wait for the movie, all the five army guys around me could say was “Damn, wasn’t she hot!” I guess it gives credence to Denis Leary’s theory that men are mollified by tits, and that once we see cleavage, every bit of rational thought exits stage left. Also, after the previews had played and when the theater darkened to begin the “20th Century Fox, Lucas Film Ltd.,” logos rolling up to “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” some idiot’s cell phone went off. Over one hundred and fifty people whipped their heads around and practically willed this guy to have an aneurism right then and there. Good times.

Saturday, I woke up around 6 pm (gotta love workings nights, huh?) and got ready for the K Club. I got three calls between then and 9 when I got there asking me “Hey, you going to the club?” which is a good sign for a Saturday that doesn’t fall around pay day. I got to the club and the crew was all there: Raven, King, Marcy, Kay, and all the rest were there. King thought he might have to leave before he even finished his first beer, but after finding out he was good to go for the night, he proceeded to kill me. Three Jaeger bombs and a Tequila shot later, I was playing Roberto Duran to his Sugar Ray, “No mas! No mas!” Also that night, I met a girl named Jodie who is from Mississippi. It’s always nice to meet someone from my home state, especially if they are as good looking as Jodie is, but yes she does have a boyfriend. She invited me to go with her the next day to a concert in Mannheim at the army base there. Later, I found out my friends Jenny and Shannon were going too. All in all, a great night.

The concert started at 3 pm, and since the lead performer was country music super-duper star Toby Keith, you had to know it would be busy. That meant getting up at around 10 am. Remember how I bragged about working nights? Yeah, I take that back. Four-alarm hangover from the Jaeger and Tequila, plus having to drive 45-minutes to Mannheim, then throw in Jodie talking about breaking the bed with her boyfriend Saturday night after my several months long draught, and Sunday wasn’t starting off very well. We got to Mannheim, and parked our cars, then started walking to the flight line where the concert would be held. Little did we know that the flight line was about 1,256 miles from where we parked. After getting into the concert area, Jodie got a call from her Army buddies who wanted us to come drink with them at their cars. Since it was only 12:15, we figured why not? Remember the 1,256 mile walk from our cars to the concert area? Well, the Army buddies parked double that away.

We finally found their cars and met some of the nicest people you’d ever hope to share a tailgate and beer with. Mike, Damion, Rick, and my favorite, the Albino Mexican, not to mention the two married couples who were wonderfully generous with their trucks, their music, and their coolers full of Mountain Dew, beer, and other stuff. We all sat around listening to country music (lots of Toby Keith) and talking. At around 2 we walked back to the concert area which was set up with about fifteen blue and white tents serving beer, soft drinks, water, food and souvenirs. There were sections set up for lawn chairs, standing areas, and even a kids area complete with a space jump. My buddy King called me on the phone, said he was at the concert and asked where I was. I told him I was near the tent serving German beer. King then proceeded to tell me (remember the fifteen tents all the same color?), “I’m near the blue and white tent.”

At 2:45, our group of about seven or eight guys and four girls (Shannon, Jodie, Jenny, and Cassie) made our way near the front. I thought that they were stupid to even attempt to get close to the front of the stage, but my new buddy Damion lived up to his future job as an Airborne Ranger by getting us about two rows from the front. Toby Keith is, in a word, amazing in concert. He started things out with such country party song like “Stays in Mexico”, “Little Less Talk”, and “I’m Just Talking About Tonight” which he masterfully turned into a call for a threesome with a girl and her sister. Four songs into the concert, the rain started. Nothing hard, but just enough to make you wish for an umbrella. I was wearing my red jacket with a hood, while my friend Jenny was only wearing a sleeveless top. Just as I pulled my hood over my Tony Stewart cap, appropriately, Toby launched into “How Do You Like Me Now?” Jenny wasn’t amused.

The concert was free to all military members and their families. Since we were on an Army base, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that around 90% of the audience had either family or friends that are in harm’s way in either Iraq or Afghanistan. After making every one of us in the crowd feel like we weren’t at a concert, but rather a big party, Toby said it was time to get serious. He told everyone who had family or friends downrange that not only were they doing good, but that they were “kicking ass and taking names.” Then, he started playing his tribute to the American armed forces, “American Soldier” and as if God in heaven approved of the affair, the sun came back out. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place. I started to sing the song, but couldn’t get more than two words out before a wave of emotion hit, driving tears down my face. My friend Jodie that had only the night before invited me to go to the concert and who had been bragging about breaking a bed with her boyfriend, was now collapsing in my arms, sobbing. Her boyfriend is due to go to Iraq in two months.

When the song was over, mega-superstar Toby Keith popped to his best attention, saluted everyone in the audience and then pulled his American Flag guitar back around and launched into my favorite of his songs, “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.” Every fourth person in the audience had American flags waving. Anyone wearing a cowboy hat or baseball cap had them raised skyward. And everyone was singing at the top of their lungs in what was undoubtedly the most memorable experience I’ve ever had. Sure, there was only about 2,000 people there, but all of them were united in celebration of the sacrifice, the commitment, the utter devotion to the United States that every single person who wears a uniform has in their hearts. For one four minute song, it was as if all of us were offering up both a prayer for the safety of the troops, and a solid mass of respect and agreement with the job at hand in the war against terrorism.

I’ve always tried to convey in my columns that being in the military is unlike anything anyone can ever experience. It has its drawbacks, its funny moments, its insanity, but on Sunday I got a huge reminded of what it takes to have a country like the United States. It doesn’t take guns, or tanks, or jet fighters. It doesn’t take money, or Congress, or even a President. It takes everyday people, from average lives, volunteering their time and sometimes their lives to protect their families and their way of life. Historian Stephen Ambrose called them “citizen soldiers.” That’s what it takes to make the greatest nation on earth, and for one Sunday afternoon, we all felt it. We all felt the joy, the pain, the elation, the sorrow, and the patriotism, and I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else in the world at that moment. God bless the USA.


ABOUT TODD W BUSH

Todd's background includes military service, a stint at a movie theater, and getting turned down for a date by Sandra Bullock. All things that make him totally unqualified to be a writer. However, now that he's getting married in November, that might just do it.

more about todd w bush

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COMMENTS

tracey kelley
5.24.05 @ 12:50p

Hey buddy -

thank you.

Aren't you supposed to be home by now?

My fav Toby Keith song? Whiskey for My Horses

tracey kelley
5.24.05 @ 12:50p

Or Beer. Some type of booze.

todd bush
5.24.05 @ 2:38p

Trace, I will be home in three weeks. And believe me, I will be singing a drunken version of "America the Beautiful" when I touch down.



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