FORT HOOD, Texas -- Rocker, business entrepreneur and reality TV star Gene Simmons and his longtime partner, former Playmate of the Year Shannon Tweed, recently visited and honored troops at Fort Hood, Texas.
The KISS bass player and frontman, and Tweed spent four days at Fort Hood filming for an upcoming episode of their reality television show "Family Jewels." They spent four days at Fort Hood and then traveled to Dallas, Feb. 2, to host the Aces and Angels Celebrity Salute to the Troops event with 500 wounded warriors.
Simmons said he and Tweed came to Fort Hood to honor the troops, thank them and praise them.
"It's the least we can do," Simmons said.
During their time at Fort Hood, Simmons and Tweed met with troops, attended deployment ceremonies, visited the USO and spent some time at the ranges seeing up-close what Soldiers do every day.
The trip was not just fun, though, as the couple got a glimpse of some of the more difficult times in military life.
Simmons and Tweed were touched deeply by the weeping spouses and children at a deployment ceremony held for the 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division Soldiers, who were leaving for Iraq.
"Seeing a deployment is a tough thing," Simmons said. "The deployment ceremony was a combination of emotions that come rushing in from all sides."
Tweed was touched by the emotions at the ceremony and the Soldiers' dedication to America and what it stands for.
"It's hard not to be affected," she said. "I realized this is so hard on families."
The emotion is a far cry from the rocker and hard-line business dealings that come to mind at the mention of Gene Simmons' name.
Well-known as the Demon Face in KISS, for his business savvy on the "Celebrity Apprentice" and for his family's A&E reality show, "Family Jewels," Simmons softens when asked his feelings about American Soldiers.
"The American military has always meant the world to me," Simmons said. "You can love the military as an ideal, but for me it was survival."
An Israeli immigrant who came to this country at 8 years old with his mother, a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, Simmons said if it weren't for the American military he would not be here.
The only reason we have the freedoms is because America's sons and daughters have volunteered to fight and sometimes offer up the ultimate sacrifice for those freedoms, Simmons said.
He works to ensure those volunteer heroes are never forgotten. Simmons has been a staunch and vocal supporter of troops fighting the war on terrorism since 2003.
He said that for most of America once Sept. 11, 2001, dimmed and the danger stayed overseas, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were forgotten.
"It's a shame," he said. "The only way this country is ever going to be free is if we appreciate those who give us our freedom."
He and Tweed refuse to forget or ignore the sacrifices made by the men and women serving in the American military. Simmons said his support of the troops, especially wounded warriors, and his involvement with the Wounded Warrior Project happened naturally.
A longtime friend of Tammy Fisher, a trustee with the Fisher House Foundation, a home away from home for wounded servicemembers and their families, Simmons came to support the Wounded Warrior Project and the United Service Organizations.
"The Wounded Warrior Project is dedicated to helping our heroes come back from battle," he said. "We do what we can."
Simmons has raised funds for and awareness about wounded warriors. In addition to his work as an individual to further the Wounded Warrior Project, his band KISS is on board as well.
For the band's last tour, one dollar of every ticket sold was donated to the Wounded Warrior Project, Simmons said.
At each show, the band was joined on stage by military heroes, the show was paused and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited.
"Every show was dedicated to our heroes," Simmons said.
With 37 years of touring under their belts and more than 3,000 licensed products, KISS members in their painted stage faces have become some of the most-recognized faces on the planet.
Even with his fame and fortune, Simmons viewed the Soldiers as the celebrities on Fort Hood and worked to keep the focus on them.
"The most impressive thing is looking into the eyes of young people who believe in an ideal and an idea. It's called America," Simmons said.