Save for the crowd and the celebrity at its core, it could have been a day like any other for a soldier strumming his guitar in the recreation center here yesterday.
Army Spc. Richard Baxter began playing the acoustic guitar just a few years ago, but yesterday he spent nearly 30 minutes jamming with Richard Patrick, guitar player and lead singer for the industrial rock band, Filter.
"It was the opportunity of a lifetime," said Baxter, a member of 352nd Military Police Company, a reserve unit out of Maryland. "It still hasn't set in yet."
Patrick and his band, Filter, and several other musical acts are at Camp Buehring today to play a concert for the troops. MySpace, the social networking Web site, is presenting the show in cooperation with Armed Forces Entertainment, a group that brings entertainment programs to deployed forces, and America Supports you, a Defense Department program that connects citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving worldwide.
"I'm actually a drummer, but I don't have a drum set," Baxter said. "Actually, the first time I came over here in (2003) is when I learned how to play a guitar."
Though Baxter has served in Iraq once before, he's a little apprehensive about this tour. "This time I have a wife and a daughter, things that make it a lot different," he said.
Despite his feelings on heading to Iraq soon, Baxter said the concert that brought Patrick and his band to Camp Buehring for a concert will be good for the troops.
"Our unit leaves Tuesday, and (the bands) play on Monday, so this is something that will be in our heads when we go 'up north.' (It'll) keep the edge off," Baxter said.
Army 1st Lt. Anh-Luan Huynh, also with 352nd MP Company, agreed. "It's definitely going to be a big morale boost," he said. "People are going to be in the right mindset (after the concert). They're going to be excited, happy."
Huynh also got in on the jam session thanks to Baxter. "It was a little bit crazy because Baxter was put on the spot, like, 'Ha, ha, look at you.' And all the sudden he's like, 'Why don't you play a song?'" Huynh said. "It was a little bit nerve-wracking. Who would have thought on a deployment that you'd get to jam out with the front man for Filter?"
Baxter may well have been trying to redirect the spotlight. "Baxter was so nervous," Patrick said. "I'm like, 'Dude, you play better than me. You're fine.'"
After playing a few songs with Baxter and then Huynh, Patrick noted the guitars the soldiers were playing were hard to keep tuned, even for a short time. "The guitars were bad, and I'm going to do everything in my power to get them two brand new acoustics," he said. "I'm calling my friends at Fender and get them some new acoustics."
Army Sgt. Frank Cavanagh, one of Patrick's former Filter band mates who had been watching the jam, took his friend's thought a step further. "For every (Morale, Welfare and Recreation center) over here in theater, (Rich and I are) going to try and get a jam room," he said. "We haven't even like really discussed it yet."
Patrick's reply came with no hesitation: "I'll help you with that, no problem."
The singer took time after the jam to sign autographs and talk with troops in the crowd.
Comedian Carlos Mencia will host the Operation MySpace concert featuring DJ Z-Trip, singer and actress Jessica Simpson, the bands Disturbed, Filter, and the Pussycat Dolls.
The concert will be streamed live via Web cast on the MySpace Web site at 2 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
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