Greywolf troops get a block-rockin' concert; Sevendust gets the experience of a lifetime
June 22, 2009
MOSUL, Iraq -Security personnel at the top of an outdoor amphitheater sat atop their vehicles, enjoying the best seats in the house. Large, incandescent lights flooded a hillside littered with fans seated comfortably on the dirt. Stragglers hurried toward the tightly-packed crowd, which had already gathered at the base of the stage.
"Sevendust!" "Sevendust!" "Sevendust!" Chants of fans faded into an excited hush as an announcer made his way to the front of the stage, microphone in hand.
"Ladies and gentlemen!," the man yelled, his thick voice disappearing into the crowd. "Let me be the first to introduce you..."
Letting out their collective breaths, the crowd exploded into hoots and cheers, enthusiastically pumping the signature "rock hand" in the air.
"Sevendust!," the announcer screamed, sweeping the stage behind him to see the band already on stage, ready and raring to put on the show of their careers. The band responded to the crowd with a collective, "inject the venom!"
Unleashing the pent-up beast of heavy gear, homesickness, all night guard shifts and three-times-daily cafeteria food, Sevendust, a hard rock band from Atlanta rattled the streets of Mosul with the Soldiers and civilians of 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division; and Forward Operating Bases Marez and Diamondback during a concert at the FOB Marez Amphitheater May 26.
Having already played for troops at four locations throughout Iraq, Sevendust finished their tour in the northern city of Mosul performing the first concert there since Charlie Wilson and the Gap Band in February.
Soldiers from all walks of Army life agreed the visit was a fresh reminder of home.
"It's a good morale boost," said Sgt. Joseph Caldwell, from Seaford, Va., with Detachment E, 50th Signal Company. "I feel a lot better after being out here. It brings a lot for us to look forward to and something to enjoy and it lets us know that we're not forgotten out here."
As with any rock concert, the area at the base of the stage was free of chairs, which troops happily turned into a small moshpit. Caldwell said his front row seats added to the energy of his experience.
"I was right next to the speakers, right next to where they were singing. It was a great time, being right next to the action," he said.
The day before the concert at FOB Marez, Sevendust visited with Soldiers of Company D, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment at Combat Outpost Scorpion, who were not able to travel north to Mosul.
Spc. Victor Lararamirez and others in the company brought their guitars to be signed by the band. Lararamirez played a short medley of tunes, much to the company's delight.
"They loved him! I was sitting back thinking to myself, 'He could play clubs, and if they were in the area, they'd all go to see him,'" said Morgan Rose, the drummer for Sevendust.
Rose said he made a strong connection with many of the troops he met throughout the tour.
"I must have given my phone number out to a million people!," he said.
"I'm going to get another phone and dedicate this one to just military folks, that way I'll know when this phone rings, it's someone in the military," said Rose.
Lajon Witherspoon, the band's singer, said visiting Iraq put his own life into perspective.
"I try to let the troops know that after seeing everything that they go through," he said. "I really don't have anything much to complain about."
Witherspoon said he was especially impressed with the reaction of the troops to their concert.
"It's been an incredible experience. I can't believe how excited the troops got about seeing us when we're just this band that plays music that's important to us," he said.
"It's changed our lives," said Witherspoon, "and we want to make sure that anytime you need us, we'll be there."
At the end of their tour, Sevendust took the stories of hundreds of Soldiers home to share and left the memory of a great concert in Mosul for the troops of Task Force Greywolf to remember forever.