By Mark Iacampo, U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels Public AffairsOctober 29, 2013
HOHENFELS, Germany -- Hohenfels' Club Beyond welcomed former American Idol finalist and Navy veteran Phil Stacey for a free community concert as part of October's National Anti-Bullying Month, recently.
Stacey's song "Be good to each other" was picked to be part of the National Bullying Awareness Campaign.
"I feel my job as a singer is part of my job as a human being. I'm supposed to be touching other people's lives, doing the best I can to be a positive force in the world," Stacey said.
As a Navy veteran, Stacey said he has a passion for the military community, and was thrilled to be asked to tour across Europe by Club Beyond and interact with military children.
"They're the leaders of tomorrow," he said. "I want to inspire these guys because they'll go home and they'll be leaders. And when they say 'Guys, that isn't right to treat people with disrespect,' people are going to listen to them."
Known primarily as a contemporary Christian performer, Stacey said the issue of bullying crosses all denominational boundaries.
"No matter what your religious affiliation, or even if you have none, bully awareness is something we need to talk about," he said. "The problem today is there are more fierce consequences (to bullying.) Lots of suicides, drug addiction -- because they get home from school and they see it online."
Stacey said he enjoyed hanging out before the show and getting to meet many of the Club Beyond youth members.
"These kids here are special," he said. "I'm going around talking bully awareness -- these kids are amazing to each other. They treat each other with such incredible dignity and respect. This is more like a 'congratulations you guys are awesome' show."
Stacey has toured with the likes of Taylor Swift and Trace Adkins, but his down-to-earth demeanor earned him many fans at Hohenfels.
"I got to hang out with them a few hours before they actually did their performance, and they're so laid back, so funny, so sarcastic and just a great group of guys," said 16-year-old Mikaela Strange.
The son of a preacher, Stacey grew up in a musical family and has been singing his whole life.
"Music was a way of coming out of my shell," he said.
Stacey sang lead vocals in the Navy Band Southeast, but his musical career really took off when he missed a friend's wedding while deployed.
"He said the only way he'd forgive me is if I auditioned for America Idol," Stacey said.
One of 103,000 other hopeful contestants, Stacey waited in line for 13 hours for his chance to perform. While there, his wife gave birth, and Stacey said that made all the difference.
"It's not about how well you sing, you need a great story," he said. "There were weeks when I was terrible, and people would vote me through. I guess they were like, 'Yeah, he just had a baby, he needs a job.'"
It was more than a story, though, that carried Stacey through to the top five of the competition, and he has the record deals to prove it.
His first album, the self-titled "Phil Stacey" peaked at number 8 on U.S. Billboard's Top Country Albums. His latest album, "Into the Light," reached the 27th spot on U.S. Billboard's Top Christian Albums.
"I'm very fortunate," he said. "I love my life."
For Stacey, though, it's not about the glitz and glamour.
"I just did a stadium show just last week," he said. "But I could get paid $25,000 for a show and it wouldn't be as rewarding as being with these kids."
Stacey said he also wanted to help draw attention to Club Beyond, the chapel based, community focused program sponsored by military chaplains as part of the overall Command Religious Program.
"It's a wonderful organization. Sometimes we all need people to lean on, we need people around us who care about us, and they're here. They're available for the people in the community and I want to encourage families to take advantage of their presence," Stacey said.
"Students have come in and told us it's like family here, that they can be themselves and it's a different atmosphere than they find anywhere else," said Michelle Hollenbach, Hohenfels' Club Beyond community director. "To know we can create that kind of community for them is really rewarding."
The show was a huge success with Stacey and fellow performer Trevor Hager interacting with the crowd, answering questions and encouraging the audience to sing along.
"If you don't know the lyrics just make up random syllables. I did that for a whole season on American Idol and nobody caught me," joked Stacey to the crowd.
Through the songs, stories and the discussions, Stacey's message and genuine caring shone through.
"I really loved his stories, and just coming out of this, I feel like I'm a whole new person," said Strange.