BASRAH, Iraq – To some, packing your bags, putting your life on hold and boarding a plane bound for Iraq may seem like something only a service member would do.
For country music star and American Idol contestant Kellie Pickler and rock legend Joan Jett it is just a small sacrifice to show her appreciation for the men and women of the U.S. armed forces.
“You all are here for most of the year, and some are here for 18 months at a time,” said Pickler. “I am here for just a small part of the year, a week or two at the most. It’s the least I can to bring a little home to you guys.”
The Albemarle, N.C., native performed a number of songs including her latest singles, "Makin’ Me Fall in Love Again" and "Best Days of Your Life," which was co-written with Taylor Swift.
“[The performers] were awesome. Especially when you can tell that they are real,” said 2nd Lt. Joshua Mixon, programs officer in charge for United States Division-South, Human Relations and MWR Support. “They were not doing [the concert] because of their management contract or anything like that. They were doing it because they wanted to have a good time, and wanted us to have a good time.”
“I have always had a great deal of respect for what you all do,” said Pickler. “Having been here and having seen with my own eyes what you do, what you really do, and what you really stand for... I have an even greater respect. I have such a greater appreciation and understanding and I value so much what you all do, the sacrifices you make.”
Pickler has been participating at events with the USO since 2007 and this marks her forth tour in Iraq. She shared the stage with the legendary rock star Joan Jett, another veteran of numerous USO Tour’s for the night’s event.
Over the past 20 years, Jett has participated in more than 60 events for the military; some working alongside the USO and others by simply asking the commanding officer of an installation if she could perform and give something back to the service members.
“I didn’t start out with the USO,” said Jett. “I did [performances] all sorts of ways, [sometimes] directly with the CO of a base where we were, and if we were close we would just call up and see if we could say hi.”
From there she formed relationships with Armed Forces Network and finally the USO, she added.
Jett stated that she enjoys playing for service members because they are very respectful and a great Rock n’ Roll audience, not to mention the fact that they "just get it."
She admitted that at one time in her life she was contemplating joining the military, and it’s from that time she feels such a strong connection to the men and women in uniform.
“I think it’s a combination of several things; my almost joining, meeting so many wonderful people and seeing their dedication. It is something to really respect and I do, and that’s why I love to do these trips,” she said.
While on stage at Contingency Operating Base Basra, Jett performed a number of her trademark songs for the audience of men and women, including "I Love Rock and Roll" and "Crimson and Clover."
The concert concluded with both performers coming on stage and being presented with a Certificate of Appreciation from the command staff and service members of USD-S.
“I just want to thank them,” said Mixon. “Thanks for allowing us to have a semi-normal night.”
This work, Jett, Pickler rock out with USD-S Soldiers, by SGT Jeremy Spires, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.