photos by Rick Moore
Walkie talkies wave from side to side as the crackle of the signal gets lost in the shuffle. Media personnel are rushed into a small conference room at the end of an eerily-quiet corridor.
Eagles’ guitarist Joe Walsh emerges through a huddle of security guards to take photos with families of military veterans and answer a few questions in a packed conference room underneath the Toyota Center.
“Houston has given us such a warm welcome, and we are truly grateful,” Marjorie Walsh said as she addressed the cameras. “This man next to me needs no introduction at all.”
Walsh, a Gold Star recipient whose father died in active duty, frequently visited Walter Reed Hospital while on tour with the Eagles and met with veterans that were being fitted with prosthetic limbs.
“I didn’t really know what to say or what to do, but I went,” Walsh said with a laugh. “It ended up being a guitar seminar.”
In 2017, Walsh launched VetsAid to help fund medical care, housing costs and other needs military veterans and their families face. VetsAid is unique in that it changes locations each year to enrich different regional charities.
In a short period of time, the impact has generated over $1 million in direct funding for the organizations that encounter veterans every day.
“Our guys, when they come home, they’re not bitter, they’re not angry, they’re not mad, they were guys waiting to be fitted with their prosthetic limb and get back to being in civilian life, get back to their families, and it just made me love America,” Walsh said. “I decided to do something to make a difference.”
Brad Paisley stepped over a risky-five-foot-tall gap between the stage and a stack of speakers as his curved-white cowboy hat bobbled back and forth. Paisley changes guitars between every song to an even-fancier Fender Telecaster, like the one covered in silver glitter.
While most may know Paisley as an established country-hit maker, many would be blown away by his guitar playing. Paisley trades between fast-ripping roadhouse numbers and emotional soft songs like a true professional.
Not to be outdone, Sheryl Crow’s sparkling top puts Paisley’s guitar collection to shame. Crow gleams in the spotlight as the crowd sings along to her award-winning set. Jason Isbell joined her to show off his guitar playing and later performed with his group the 400 Unit.
Hometown heros ZZ Top came in guns-a-blazing to put the crowd on their feet. The backdrop congratulated them on their 50th anniversary as a household name. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a more massive stack of amplifiers at one time.
The Doobie Brothers and Walsh pleased the crowd on Veterans Day Eve and thanked the audience for their support.
“See who needs help and reach out where you can,” Walsh said. “The transition from where they were back to civilian life is almost too big of a mountain to climb.”
To donate to VetsAid and find information on next year’s event visit www.vetsaid.org.