Thank you, Gov. Kempthorne, for inviting the Raiders and me to join you in Alexandria, La., over the Thanksgiving holiday for Idaho's version of a USO tour.
It was just a single phone call from "The Gov" as we were boarding a ship for an "Oldies" cruise, but it was a call that led to an unforgettable experience for Paul Revere and the Raiders. The life of a '60s rock band on the road is filled with festivals, casinos and state fair grandstands. But the concert we would perform in the Rapides Coliseum in Alexandria, La., would be different.
A very special thank you to the Raiders: Omar, Ron, Doug, Danny, Darrin, and of course our incredible sound and light technicians: Ron, Matt and Marty, all of whom agreed without hesitation to take part in "Operation Thanksgiving."
It was truly an honor and a privilege to give a concert for the soldiers of the 116th Brigade Combat Team. The Raiders and I wanted to show our support and thank our soldiers for their willingness to serve and fight for democracy and our nation's way of life -- and those brave and courageous men and women turned the tables and thanked us for coming to Louisiana and performing. Our effort is so small compared to their sacrifices.
What an incredible experience for a '60s rock band to bridge the generations of warriors with music. We met young soldiers who were not yet born when the Raiders topped the music charts. We met soldiers from the 116th who served in Vietnam and knew the lyrics to every one of our songs. Today, those Vietnam veterans are leaving grandchildren behind to once again fight to protect our freedoms.
It is a Thanksgiving Day I shall never forget. What a pleasure it was to stand beside our governor and serve the traditional turkey dinner to the nearly 4,000 troops who are now in Kuwait preparing for entry into Iraq. For 6 1/2 hours they streamed through the chow line with smiles and requests for a little more gravy or an extra large helping of turkey. Then off to find a spot near the television where the game of the day was playing -- very much like what was happening in many homes across America. However, unlike most of our nation's citizens, these Americans were preparing to fly off to a foreign country to fight the long arm of terrorism.
Thank you to the families of the troops of the 116th for your sacrifices and enduring the separation from your loved ones with your loyal support and steadfastness.
Thank you to the "Brass" -- General Kane, General Lafrenz, and a very impressive group of colonels, for their leadership and guidance and all the officers who have worked to make sure our soldiers are well-trained and prepared for what lies ahead of them.
I also want to thank the Boise businesses that contributed to the effort so this goodwill tour could be done without using taxpayer dollars.
Thank you, Gov. Kempthorne, for your leadership and compassion for our nation's heroes. As we gathered into a prayer circle at your request to offer up a prayer asking for God's protection of our troops -- I understood the full measure of our state's commander-in-chief's burden when sending troops into battle.
The Ride to the Wall Foundation (www.ridetothewall.org) will have a new generation of veterans to aid, and with your support we will help make sure they are never forgotten.