JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. (Aug. 21, 2013) -- Staff Sgt. Nathan Fair found comfort in the strings of his guitar during stressful times as an infantryman in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I played because it was my way to unwind," said Fair. "I needed it because I didn't know if I would make it back from the battles that we were having three and four times a day."
Fair added that he had played the guitar for about 12 years but not for more than an audience of a couple soldiers.
"We would sit around a small fire, and I would play for these guys. I could see in their eyes that they really connected with my music. That really gave me confidence," said Fair, infantryman, U.S. Army Drill Team, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). "They would tell me that I was really good and I should keep going with this."
The camaraderie between Fair and his fellow battle buddies enabled him to make it through some of the toughest times in war. When he had to deal with the unfortunate circumstance of losing one of them, he turned to his guitar.
"Everyone dealt with in their own way. I started writing music about experiences and hardships that many service members go through after losing someone," said Fair. "I enjoyed sharing my music with other soldiers, but I also wanted my music to reach further."
Fair wasn't sure where to take his passion for performing after returning home from his deployments. He eventually entered a singer, songwriter contest at the Huske Hardware House in Fayetteville, N.C. in 2011.
"I really didn't want to go at first, but all my friends told me I should. I just went along with everyone just for fun," said Fair. "I didn't think that I would win anything."
Fair was taken aback when he won first place with his song "Fallen Soldier," a song he and a friend wrote during a deployment.
"It was absolutely incredible," said Fair. "From that moment, I started getting offers to open for different groups across the country."
Fair's most recent performance, the Country Music Television's Bike Week at the Legendary Sturgis Buffalo Chip in South Dakota, showcased dozens of rock/country bands and musicians, vendors and entertainment for more than 700,000 people.
"Some call this place the music and motorcycle Mecca because people come from all over to be a part of it," said Fair.
Fair earned a spot through a referral from Madison Rising, a patriotic rock band who also performed at the event.
"I have opened for those guys many times, so after they got into CMT's Bike Week, they fought to get me there too," said Fair. "It was a dream come true to play there."
Two Navy SEALs killed in Benghazi were honored during a memorial ceremony before Fair went on stage.
He said because the crowd was cheering so loud after the ceremony, it made him somewhat nervous.
"My knees were getting weak. It literally scared the crap out of me because prior to this, the most I ever played for was around 6,000 people," said Fair. "I looked out across the sea of leather, motorcycles and amped-up Americans, and I was just blown away."
He began to feel something unexpected out on that stage in front of all the listeners; calmness.
"I just began to talk to the audience and all of a sudden I was relaxed. I introduced myself and said I was an active duty soldier. The crowd just went crazy," said Fair. "I told them my songs can be downloaded on iTunes and all proceeds go to Wounded Warrior Project, Operation Restore Warrior, and Wounded Wear."
These nonprofit organizations honor and empower severely injured service members by supporting and providing them with resources to fulfill any needs that they may have.
"I can't say enough about these organizations and what they do for all soldiers and some of my friends as well," said Fair. "It is so important that we help these heroes because of their sacrifices."
Fair's performance lasted just a few minutes, but he said, it seemed more like an eternity.
"I guess I sang with such passion that I almost don't remember a whole lot," he said. "I just remember looking out over the audience and being lost in my words."
While Fair was performing, he failed to notice the reaction he received from the viewers. Hundreds of thousands of bikers revved their engines as a sign of respect and love for his performance.
"I knew they appreciated my music when I heard that. I can't put into words what that felt like," said Fair. "It was really crazy to see that many people in one place listening to me."
Fair has been through a lot of extreme situations, but nothing was more memorable than this performance.
"I was very honored and humbled to represent my unit and the U.S. Army," said Fair. "I love the military, this country and everything we stand for."