'Anything for the Veterans'

In a normal spring, most of my waking hours are devoted to writing columns and documentary movie scripts, getting the yard ready for summer and spending time with friends and family. Not this year.
Since March, most of my waking hours have been devoted to producing a rock and roll show and auction.
The auction was the first of what ideally will be many fund raisers for the Ride to the Wall Foundation, begun by late rock and roll icon Paul Revere and Boisean Larry Leasure. Its original purpose was to raise funds for needy Vietnam veterans, but it’s since been expanded to include homeless and at-risk veterans of all wars.
Ride to the Wall is the main reason for this column. It helps those who have sacrificed greatly for this country, and more people need to know about it. But first, bear with me while I tell you a little about the rock and roll show.
As longtime readers of this column know, I play in a group called the Mystics. One of the rules I live by is not to write about the band because it would be a conflict of interest – using my column to promote our performances. This column is an exception because it isn’t promoting a performance. Nobody’s going to rush out and buy a ticket to the show after reading this because the show is over.
It started out as one of my crazy ideas. Fifty years had passed since the group’s heyday in the ‘60s, and an anniversary party seemed like a good idea.
Not everyone thought so.
“Do you think anybody would come?” a fellow band member asked when the subject was broached.
He had a point. With all the other entertainment options happening in Boise on a given weekend, how many people would go see a bunch of aging rock and rollers? It’s not like we’re the Rolling Stones.
Some things you do on faith, however, and with that in mind I naively forged ahead. If I’d known how much work it was going to be, I probably would have settled for a nice nap instead. Among other things, it was an education in how to produce an event – setting up bank, PayPay and Brown Paper Ticket accounts, distributing posters, writing news releases, lining up guest performers and volunteers, posting photos and countdowns and otherwise working with social media. There was seldom a day that I wasn’t shamelessly sending e-mails or working Facebook.
A lot of people helped. Special thanks to Martha Hopper for helping with Brown Paper Tickets and Will Call and Jordin Hill for assisting this technologically resistant baby boomer with the intricacies of Facebook.
The party itself was a joy. People did come, some 500 of them. Among them were nine former band members, four of whom joined us onstage to play or sing. It was the first time some of them had performed live in years, but you wouldn’t have known it to see them.
Auction Frogs’ live auction raised $4,000 for Ride to the Wall, and its online auction added another $$$$$$. The money will be used to help needy Treasure Valley veterans.
Ride to the Wall is better known in other parts of the country than in Idaho – Revere’s home state. Paul Revere and the Raiders did Ride to the Wall benefit concerts in Washington, D.C. and other cities around the country, but he died before they could work one in here.
Revere himself was such a force of nature that it’s still hard for me to believe he’s gone. A rock and roll pioneer, he started making records in the ‘50s, when rock was young. He sold millions of them, and he made audiences laugh like no one else. He performed almost to the end, even when he was so sick he had to be carried on and offstage. For his courage, his wit and a career spanning all or parts of seven decades, he should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Though not a veteran, he had a powerful connection with them. I was with him during a ride to the wall (the Vietnam Veterans Memorial) in 2005. Hundreds of vets lined up to have him sign CDs in the Pentagon parking lot. Many tearfully expressed their gratitude for what he was doing for them. One took off his motorcycle jacket and gave it to him. If you know much about bikers, you know how much that meant.
As Revere’s health declined, Ride to the Wall became less active.
“When Paul was diagnosed with cancer, we of course had a huge reduction in the ability to raise money,” Ride to the Wall Executive Director Cheryl Miller said. “… He was the major fundraiser. He was so funny and so good at it. He’d tell people to ‘help a veteran; make sure you go to Heaven.’ The dynamic really changed when he died.”
One of the things on his bucket list, she said, was a Ride to the Wall benefit concert at the Morrison Center for the Performing Arts. That didn’t happen because of his illness, but now the foundation “wants to get into action and start raising money again, probably on a local basis here in Idaho to start with. We’d like to build mini-houses – four-bedroom homes where we could provide shelter for four veterans for up to a year.”
The anniversary party and auction were a start – but just a start.
“We’re extremely anxious to move forward and expand the original mission beyond Vietnam veterans,” Leasure said. “Since Iraq and Afghanistan, we have a lot of young veterans that we want to help. We’re looking forward to doing that, and we’re excited to do the next concert in the fall.”
Tentatively planned for Veterans Day, it will feature several acts. When I told singer-songwriter Pinto Bennett about it over lunch recently, the words were hardly out of my mouth when he said to count him in.
“Anything for the vets,” he said.
My guess is that many of you who are reading this feel the same way.
See you on Veterans Day.

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@hotmail.com.

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