Monday, April 25, 2011

Bret Michaels for President?

No, he's not running for office next year, not as far as I've heard anyway, but this man is my own, personal American hero.

Of course, he and his band, Poison, crooning Every Rose Has Its Thorn to the 16 year-old girl that I was when they first came on the scene, drew my attention...and held it for a bit...but Poison was never my favorite band.  Def Leppard and Depeche Mode have remained my two favorites after all of these years.  Fast forward past the whole Rock of Love thing, that frankly never impressed me beyond the fact Bret's eyes were still as blue, to about 20 years later and my first (yes, for one reason or another I had to wait that long) Def Leppard concert.  Poison and Cheap Trick opened for them that hot, August night in Atlanta and I was 16 again for a few hours.
I was very happy to see Cheap Trick and Poison, so many of their songs were my favorites at the time that they were released, but really, I was about to lose my mind thinking I had to make it through two opening acts before I could finally lay my eyes on Joe Elliot and his band mates for the first time.  I was antsy, antsy, antsy for the months that I had the tickets, quivering like a 60's Beetles fan entering the arena.  It was a BIG day for this silly, old-fart of a wife and homeschool mom.  Boy was I surprised that, though the Def Leppard concert was one of the greatest experiences of my life, it was Bret who made one of the biggest impacts on my life.

It was fun! He was energetic and vivacious, a born entertainer yet so obviously a down-to-earth guy even after years of celebrity.  It was when he got to the song Something To Believe In, however, that his true self became apparent.  He dedicated the song to our military men and women overseas and said that every time he performs it, it's recorded and sent to them.  He then pointed out an entire section of audience that was seated near my husband and me whom we hadn't even noticed, that was made up of soldiers who had just returned home.  Some were missing arms, others were on crutches, some in civilian clothes, others in BDUs.  I have never been so moved.

It's shameful to admit, just horrible, but I lost my sense of patriotism not long after marrying a US Navy man.  It was the way he was treated by the newly appointed administration and the hierarchy that exists within companies that did it.  He was treated as an object, humiliated, used, and basically run into the ground during the years that he was a submariner.  Submarine life is hard, especially on a small sub that runs special ops.  I could understand that.  What I couldn't handle was my husband coming home after weeks of being out and learning that he hadn't slept in three days.  I hated that he was expected to die for his country, but his country couldn't pay him enough to live on.  I hated that I was one of a half dozen spouses who ever stood dockside to meet my husband when the boat would pull in, but was told by the leader of the boat's wives' group that it was my responsibility as a wife to support my husband by attending all of the wives' meetings and functions.  After growing up in a private school and hating every minute of that form of institutionalism, I was just rebellious enough to make sure I made it through the six years of my husband's sea duty having never attended a single wives' meeting.

By the time his second enlistment ended, I was done with it all.  I loved my country, but I was done serving it as a military wife.  The week he was to be released, the World Trade Center towers came down.  My patriotism was screaming through my veins. For half a day, we didn't know if he was still free to go or if he would be required to extend his enlistment.  We were ready either way, to stay and serve or to be released and find a way to serve this country.  When we found out he was able to go, since he had already been processed out, we packed up our van, the two children I had given birth to in a Navy hospital, painted flags and "U.S.A." all over the windows of our van like college football fans, and started a month-long, cross-country road trip from the Pacific Northwest to Montana and Deadwood, SD, through the fields of the Midwest and finally on to the South.  It was liberating and healing, like we were reclaiming every inch of our country from the pieces of crap who were trying to destroy it and gaining back some of the faith we had lost after years of service.

It wasn't until Bret Micheals' open support for our service people did my sense of patriotism come slamming back home.  He had me vibrating with feelings of gratitude for those people and for my country that is still so great.  We left the concert loving that man and his kind spirit, his all-American honesty, and we agreed that he was the best part of the evening.

We watched Celebrity Apprentice the season he was on and his honest nature was emphasized during those weeks.  It was shocking and difficult to watch his close call with death.  We rooted for him, hoping he would pull through.  When he did, we shared a sense of relief with the rest of his fans.

When it was announced a few weeks ago, that he was coming to a local venue on his solo tour, my husband and I toyed with the idea of going.  Life got busy and we didn't think about it much.  Friday night, the night of the concert, we thought that we had a date night planned when my sons had a party to go to.  We were going to go have dinner in town, then pick the boys up afterward.  Well, as it turned out, they had the date wrong and the party was scheduled for another night.  We decided to go to the movies as a family.  While I was getting ready, I remembered that the concert was that night.  My family encouraged me to go, saying they could drop me off at the concert, go see the same movie, but in the town in which the concert was to be held, and pick me up afterward.  Tickemaster was no longer selling tickets and when I called the venue, they said their system was down and they had no idea if they even had any tickets left.  We decided to drive there, since it is only about 45 minutes from our house and see if there were any tickets.
Two hours later, while my husband and children enjoyed a movie nearby, I was sitting, biting my tongue to keep my eyes dry, while Bret Michaels made a video of us, the audience, while singing Something To Believe In, to send to the troops overseas.  As it turns out, that night was the one year anniversary of his brain hemorrhage and he was there to celebrate his life.  I am so grateful for such a man and the renewed love for country he inspires.

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