At Ft. Hood with Kasey Kahne, Some Pretty Dang Good Country Music and a Budweiser or Two

MG Will Grimsley, Kasey Kahne and Ft. Hood USO director Robin Crouse before Budweiser support event.

From the desk of John Hanson:

Visiting Ft. Hood is always a treat. A humble treat, but a treat.  It’s the Army’s largest base anywhere.  On any day 1/3 of the base is deployed overseas; 1/3 is recovering from deployment and 1/3 is getting ready to deploy.  Thousands of troops and families deal with that math every day.  Today was a crowded day – a good day.

“Whenever there’s a traffic jam, that’s good news,” a first sergeant told me.

So, what was I doing at the base that fills the space between Killeen and Waco, on a pretty nice spring evening?

Budweiser, one of the USO’s stalwart supporters, offered to help us with Operation Enduring Care and our initiative to build 2 new state-of-the-art centers at the new Walter Reed Hospital at Bethesda and the Ft. Belvoir Community Hospital in Virginia.  It’s an ambitious effort, and when a national sponsor steps forward to offer us what might be $250,000, I’m going to show up.

Budweiser and its distributors around the country will be donating proceeds during the summer to help us as we begin the hard work of building the new Wounded Warrior Centers.  Part of their promotion involves their Number 9 racecar, driven by Kasey Kahne, who is, by the way, a genuine supporter of the troops.

Budweiser Number 9 car, driven by Kasey Kahne

Voila! The Car

Budweiser regional representative Henry Dominguez announced the promotion in front of thousands of soldiers and family members gathered in one of the base’s field houses to meet Kahne and to hear country music performer Kevin Fowler (yes THAT Kevin Fowler, whose Beer, Bait and Ammo is one of the best Texas songs I’ve heard in a while).

We’re pretty sure they were there for Kahne and/or Fowler, because when Henry introduced me the plaintive wail, “We want Kasey!” was heard across the room.  Well, I (wisely, I think) cut to the chase, explained why the support from Budweiser was important and got the heck off the stage.

Then, Henry, Kasey and I unveiled the bright, Budweiser red Number 9 car, with the legend “Proud to Serve Those Who Serve” across the hood. Pretty cool.  On Memorial Day and July 4 (the bookends of the USO’s Patriotic 6” the car will feature the USO logo inside, next to Kasey for the world to see when the in-car camera comes on.  Watch for it.

Ft. Hood Matters

Ft. Hood is important to its soldier and family citizens.  Families are raised here, after all.  Military children are educated here.  It’s a really large community with an important focus.

Major Gen. Will Grimsley, the deputy commander of Ft. Hood and III Corps sees what the USO does.  In a presentation to the USO he told his troops that the USO is there where they are, “From Kandahar to Balad, the USO will take care of you.”

That was flattering and rewarding, but we have a special presence at this mammoth installation, and we suffer when they suffer.

The USO was the one NGO that was authorized to operate after the tragic shootings here in November.  Later, the USO helped with the healing when we worked with the base’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation office to produce its Community Strong Day.  Gary Sinise, Chamillionire and others came here to celebrate resilience and sacrifice.

Robin Crouse, the USO’s outstanding center director at Ft. Hood is one of the “go-to” folks the military command depends on.

In the Green Room, where Kahne signed autographs and posed for photos, I talked to some Dominos Pizza representatives.  They told me that 6 years ago Robin asked them to provide some pizzas for troops who had just returned.   “That was 14,000 pizzas ago,” one of them told me.  Great story, I thought, and good call.  Nothing like a little good will to build consumer affinity.  I thanked them for their generosity, and the rep told me, “No thanks needed.  We do it because it matters.  Ft. Hood matters.”

It does.  It matters to the dog handler and his beautiful pooches who’d already done one tour to Iraq and were getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan this summer.  “I’ll be fine,” the handler said.  “She takes care of me.”  God speed.

It matters to the sergeant who’d just recently returned from Afghanistan.  He stood with his wife and Kahne for a photo.  The wife was beaming, but he had that look we see so often from these folks.  Simple act of kindness on Kasey’s part, but sacrifice was written all over the faces of this military couple who looked years older than .

I love this job, because whenever I get a bit cynical or wrapped up in my own nonsense, I meet people who make my life worthwhile.

Ft. Hood matters.  THEY matter.  They’re why we do what we do.