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Country music star visits southern California-based Marine unit in Iraq

29 May 2006 | Cpl. Antonio Rosas

Marines and Sailors serving in Iraq’s western Al Anbar Province were treated to a musical performance by one of Coalition Forces’ greatest supporters – Toby Keith.

The avid backer of America’s fighting forces paid a visit to the Marines of the Twenty-nine Palms, Calif.-based 1st battalion, 7th Marine Regiment at the Marine’s base of operations near the Iraq-Syria border May 29, 2006.

The Marines were able to take a break from providing security and stability to the towns along the Euphrates river alongside their Iraqi Security Forces counterparts to enjoy the show.

The battalion is about 11 weeks into a seven month deployment in Iraq.

“The show was awesome,” said Sgt. Jeremy L. Goss, 29, a motor transport non-commissioned officer with the battalion. “It was great that he took time to show his appreciation to the military for what we are doing out here.”   

Keith played an hour-long show under his latest United Service Organization Tour, which caters to U.S. service members serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany.

The Oklahoma native said it was simply his way of giving thanks to the men and women of America’s military.

“I appreciate everything that you do,” said Keith to the standing crowd of more 1,000 Marines, sailors and soldiers. “Anyone who wears the uniform for the United States has my respect.”

Keith, who has made it his priority to visit Marines and soldiers in far-off corners of Iraq, at military bases such as the one at Al Qa’im, expressed his gratitude to the hundreds of singing fans by playing several of his hits, such as, “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.”

The Marines who operate in this region of the Euphrates River valley are spread through out a number of battle positions inside the Iraqi cities and towns where they train and mentor the fledgling Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police.

The Marines said the show was a good break from the everyday responsibility of teaching Iraqi soldiers and police how to provide their own security.

For some, such as Lance Cpl. Jason W. Lippert, the live performance was a chance to “get lost in the music,” and not have to think about the war or missing his loved ones. 

“It was something different for those of us who are working everyday away from our families,” said the 20-year-old Livermore, Calif., native. “It was a chance to get away from work.”

For those who did not attend the performance, the day was business as usual in this northwestern corner of Iraq – foot patrols alongside Iraqi soldiers and police officers, in towns like Ubaydi and Husaybah, where two new police stations were recently opened.

Meanwhile, Marines from the local Police Transition Team, a group of Marines and soldiers here responsible for mentoring and advising the new police forces, conducted a recruiting screening for new Iraqi police officers to help bulk up local police forces.

Despite two recent attacks on the police in Husaybah, 65 Iraqis were showed to the drive, waiting in lines to be screened by the Marines and Iraqi police for service as a police officer.

Keith made it a point to congratulate the efforts and hard work of the southern California-based unit by meeting with fans before and after the show and signing autographs.

“I have nothing but respect for all of you,” Keith told a small group who gathered around the singer during a photo opportunity.

Email Cpl. Rosas at rosasa@gcemeng-wiraq.usmc.mil