Members of Willy Pete made a visit to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany where they were enthusiastically met by staff members and nurses. Band members and personnel include Carolyn Long (second from left), U of M music instructor Jeremy Tubbs (fourth from left), Jarian Felton (ninth from left), Simon Hunt (seventh from right), and from fifth from right to far right: Lindsey Guillot, Dave Nowak, Doug Pierce, Brian Guillot and Brandon Goff.
“Having been in the military for 28 years, I know from experience that being sent around the world to fight for your country can instill a significant amount of pride in a person,” says Nakagawa. “But it’s terrible being away from your family, your country, your community, everything. Having bands like Willy Pete who are willing to take time from their families and life to travel over to Europe and bring a piece of America to the soldiers overseas is great. They bring America to the people who need it most. “When I was deployed, I remember hearing American songs played by bands in clubs. But it’s not the same as when an actual American rock band takes time out to come play for you and you know it’s for you. It means a whole lot to sing along to songs with groups that have American accents,” says Nakagawa. Air Force medic Timothy Carentz was stationed at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany when he first met the band. “When you’re in America, you have a lot of say in what you eat, what you wear or what you watch on TV, but when you go to a deployed location overseas, you’d be surprised about what you miss from home,” Carentz says. “You see people get excited to get a bag of Twizzlers from home. So when someone comes from home and sits down with you and wants to make friends with you, it’s really meaningful. Some people come through thinking they’re on the red carpet, but when Willy Pete W W W. M E M P H I S . E D U
comes through, they put everyone else on the red carpet.” Carentz says he would accompany Willy Pete through the military hospitals in Landstuhl while the group visited wounded soldiers. “I had done that for various celebrities and musicians before who typically would just spend seconds with the patients, but Willy Pete would sit there playing music, talking with them, signing autographs and taking pictures. “They stayed at my house a few times during their trips, and we would wake up around five in the morning and not come back until midnight. One time when they stayed with me, they played 14 concerts in three days, all at separate venues,” Carentz recalls. Although Tubbs says all of the concerts are very meaningful, the “up-close-and-personal” shows are most memorable. “Some of our favorite shows are the smaller, more intimate ones,” he says. “We go to different bases, and we’ll talk and do some songs. We try to just hang out with the soldiers and have a good time. “We’ll ask what songs they like. They’ll go, ‘I like Lynyrd Skynyrd.’ We’ll say, ‘OK, OK.’ We’ll play ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ or whatever song we know by the group.” Willy Pete has made many big-name friendships in the militaryaiding community, including the Red Cross, USO, Wounded Warrior Project and the Department of Defense. The organizations will typically FA L L 2 014
University of Memphis Fall Magazine