Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. -- In some places, barbecue, cowboy hats, loud music and lots of people can mean only one thing there's a honky tonk going on.
This was the situation at the station parade deck Friday when the Spirit of America Tour brought country music stars Chad Brock, David Kersh, Darryl Singletary and Rhett Akins to Yuma for the Honky Tonk Tailgate Party.
Approximately 3,000 station service members, employees and their families attended. Robert Rosenthal, creator and president, Spirit of America Tour, said, "My wife, Nina, and I started the tour right after 9/11 because we wanted to do something for America by getting artists to volunteer to perform at domestic military bases."
The Rosenthals pick up the tab for the artists' travel, food, lodging and other tour expenses with money from their own pocket. The retired attorney said he and his wife have been saving for many years and really enjoy using their savings to support the troops.
Before the artists and the band members performed, they were given a tour of the station and the opportunity to meet some of the Marines and sailors they'd be playing for.
The tour began with lunch at the mess hall and a greeting by Col. James J. Cooney, station commanding officer.
The performers were then shown several aircraft on the flight line, followed by a visit to the Harrier flight simulator.
"I had the most fun in that flight simulator, although I did run it into the ground; it was a blast," said Singletary.
The tour continued with a visit to the Branch Medical and Dental Clinics. The last stop on the tour was at the station parade deck, where they were treated to a military working dog demonstration by military police.
Upon completing their tour of the air station, the artists and band members began preparing for the concert, which started at 8 p.m. and ended shortly after 10 p.m.
Singletary said he was treated with extreme generosity while on station and was very impressed by the Marines and sailors he met.
"What's been so impressive about the whole day has been the overwhelming hospitality," he explained. "I've had such a wonderful time. I'd come back and play for free if they'll let me fly that flight simulator again."
The other performers also expressed great respect and support for the armed forces.
"We really like to do these gigs because we're playing for (service members), and that's an honor for us," said Darryl Preston, guitar player.
Brock said he knows how much service members do for the American people because he's been in their shoes before as a former sailor.
"I'm former military, so this is something I love to be a part of and totally believe in," he said. "I'm so thankful for ya'll. You can ask any of the guys around me and they'll tell you I'm pretty vocal about the way I feel about this country."
"This was a great deal for the air station," said Staff Sgt. David S. Bihm, training chief, Combat Service Support Detachment-16. "The music was great, and I especially liked the part when Chad Brock said that he had served in the military and talked about his own little girl and what the military means to the future of our children. It really hit home for a lot of people.
"We needed something like this, especially with all the deployments," Bihm added. "It proved to be a wonderful distraction, especially with (the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course) going on."
The Spirit of America Tour did five shows its first year, 18 the second, has 22 booked for this year and plans on more in 2005. According to Rosenthal, the tour could come back to Yuma next year.