God Bless the USA – and Lee Greenwood
We were stationed at Yokota AB, Japan when Lee Greenwood came to do a concert. I was co-music director for a production of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (I was the director of Air Force Catholic Chapel Choirs back then and my counterpart, the director of the Air Force Protestant Chapel Choirs and I were taking turns directing the Japanese orchestra when we weren’t on stage – hey, in the military, you have to make do with what you have and teamwork will get you through). We were all bummed because Lee was only going to be in the neighborhood for one concert and we were going to miss it (dress rehearsal). So we sent him a note saying “Welcome to Japan, sorry we’re going to miss you, but thanks for coming.”
So there we were at dress rehearsal loving what we were doing, but feeling very homesick when the doors to the theatre pop open and here comes this guy out of nowhere interrupting our rehearsal.
Our first thought was “Who the heck is that?”
And then, as all good performers do, he came into the light and there he was – Lee Greenwood – at our dress rehearsal!
“I heard you couldn’t make it to the concert, so I thought I’d come see you.”
We all stood there, frozen for a minute, then burst into cheers and applause.
He asked if we had any requests. Of course we all wanted God Bless the USA. He sang, we joined in on the chorus, and even the biggest, burliest, and most stoic among us had tears rolling down our cheeks. We were halfway around the world, missing our friends and family back home and this song said everything that was in our hearts.
This is why I will always love Lee Greenwood – he came to us with no hoopla, no fanfare, just wanting to say hello and thank you to us. After he sang for us, he sang a Japanese folk song for our orchestra members, who were every bit as excited as we were.
Years later, I was working in the Entertainment department at SeaWorld Orlando when he came to do an event there. I sent him a note saying thank you for that long ago song and being there for those of us who were far away from home. I heard he remembered that day and he was glad it made a difference.
It made a huge difference. Thanks, Lee! I never get tired of hearing that song and it still makes me cry. Godspeed.
Update: Lee Greenwood’s response – another reason for me to love him even more. I’m glad he saw it and I hope it made him smile.