On Friday (December 11), the Fort Hood community came together for Fort Hood Community Strong, a day of healing and remembrance for the 13 members of the military killed at the base a month ago. The show featured a performance by Houston rapper Chamillionaire, who was kind enough to share his thoughts on the day with us.
I feel so privileged to have received an invitation to perform in Killeen, Texas for the Fort Hood Community Strong event for all the soldiers and their families. It’s not every day that we get a chance to give back to the people who put their lives on the line to defend our country daily. Me and my party of four received a warm greeting from a group of USO soldiers who were waiting to pick us up from the airport when we arrived in Killeen. They took pictures and told us numerous times how appreciative they were that I would be a part of the event. While we were in the van en route to the hotel to drop off our bags, they told us some of their daily duties and Iraq stories. One of the soldiers told us he had to carry 180 pounds of baggage and weapons in what seemed like 150 degree Iraq weather, and he also told us stories about spiders that they saw that chased people and attacked birds. From the moment we met the soldiers they were very open with us and it seemed like they like the loved to share their war stories with tourists.
When we got to the hotel and dropped off our bags we immediately had to leave and head to Fort Hood to do a soundcheck and a press conference for the event. The area surrounding the military base seemed to have most of the normal recreational places that you would find in the average city. We passed a couple of clubs and a bowling alley on the way to Hood Stadium, where I would be performing in front of an expected 50,000 people. Once we made it through the checkpoint, we saw a lot of military buildings and government vehicles and I could tell that we were approaching the stadium because of a super-large TV screen that said “USO” on it glowing in the distance. We pulled up to a long line of trailers and hopped out of the van and went to the trailer they had reserved for me to wait for the press conference.
Before the press conference I got to meet some of the other entertainers that would also be participating in the event, including Nick Jonas, comedian Dana Carvey, Aaron Lewis (the lead singer of Staind), the Lt. Dan Band, the Zac Brown Band and Mallory Lewis and Lamb Chop. We all were briefed on the details surrounding the performance times and then we were directed to the press tent to participate in the USO press conference. There was a podium where the president of the USO spoke and then after that each performer had a chance to explain the importance of supporting the troops and why we were so grateful to be a part of the event. After the press conference I took pictures with a lot of soldiers, some Houston Texan cheerleaders that were in attendance and signed some random autographs until it was time for me to hit the stage.
Earlier, during the soundcheck, the field in front of the stage was completely empty, but before I got to the stage to perform I could tell the crowd was massive because of the loud cheers after Aaron Lewis got off the stage. They quickly announced my name after his performance and I hit the stage to view an ocean of soldiers and family members cheering in appreciation. The crowd seemed as long as a football field and I performed some of my records off both of my major albums and some songs that I was featured on. I demanded full crowd participation and asked them to do everything from putting their hands in the air to jumping like they were trying to touch the sky, and they did everything I asked.
After the performance I went to a tent where Nick Jonas and Dana Carvey where signing autographs and proceeded to do the same. The line of families and soldiers seemed to be endless but all of us took pictures and autographed promo flyers for everyone. I could tell some of them were very big fans because they showed up with copies of my mixtapes and albums to be autographed. Just at the point that I thought my hands were about to fall off from the cold, I had reached the stopping point and was told to head to the trailer. More soldiers came to the trailer and spoke to me and took pictures and it helped me to believe that Fort Hood has some of the most appreciative people in the world. Before I left, General Grimsley of Fort Hood presented me with a large award that was inscribed thanking me for my support of the troops and then we took a couple pictures to capture the moment.
It was not even 7 p.m. and I was already back in my hotel downloading images and video footage from the event to my computer. Looking back at all the images, I could see the smiles of all of the people that I came in contact with and I knew that was evidence of a job well done. I know that the reason for the Community Strong event was to lift the spirits of the soldiers and their families because of the recent tragedy at Fort Hood, but from what I could tell they all seemed to be in good spirits and enjoyed the event. There is irony in the fact that I went to Fort Hood to help lift up their spirits and their stories and courage actually helped to lift up mine. Thanks to everyone to the USO and everyone at Fort Hood. I know that I’m speaking for a lot of other proud Americans when I say your efforts to defend this country are greatly appreciated.