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Country Music, Rodeo Stars Entertain Wounded Warriors

By Nelia Schrum and Andricka Hammonds
Special to American Forces Press Service

SAN ANTONIO, Feb. 23, 2006 – When the 2006 San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo pulled up stakes Feb. 19, it left the wounded warriors recovering at Brooke Army Medical Center here and hospital staff with fond memories of Texas and cowboy hospitality.

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Staff and patients gather on three levels to watch Willie Nelson and his band perform Feb. 17 at Brooke Army Medical Center. Photo by Brian Guerra

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Texas legend Willie Nelson and his family band treated the hospital to a concert in the Medical Mall Feb. 17, playing to a packed audience of staff and patients. Opening with his hit, "Whiskey River," he sang signature ballads like "On the Road Again," "Crazy" and "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys."

Nelson played for 90 minutes. Following his performance, he signed autographs and posed for pictures with patients and staff for another hour.

The Willie Nelson band played at BAMC in February 2005 performing 11 numbers. But Nelson had to cut his performance for the 2005 Stock Show and Rodeo because he was suffering from laryngitis.

"I wanted to come back again and play for the soldiers because I didn't feel I had performed at my best last year," Nelson said, adding his throat since has recovered.

For Valentine's Day, country-western heartthrob Clay Walker invited 10 wounded warriors and their spouses or girlfriends to join him at the AT&T Center here for a special meet-and-greet, along with the rodeo and his performance. Walker, who has 11 No. 1 country hits, recognized the wounded warriors attending the event as "the bravest people I've ever met."

Lynyrd Skynyrd, the southern rock band that made the song "Sweet Home Alabama" famous, also invited the wounded warriors for a meet-and-greet prior to their rodeo performance Feb. 18.

The Army's official cowboy, Luke Branquinho, who claimed the world champion steer wrestling title in 2004, made the rounds at BAMC visiting with patients.

Buck Taylor, who starred in the 1993 Western hit "Tombstone" and the 20-season hit series "Gunsmoke" as gunsmith Newly O'Brien, stopped by BAMC in full western gear to visit patients in the Burn Center, Amputee Care Center and Occupational Therapy.

Taylor, an accomplished western artist, designed the cover of the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo program. He autographed copies of the program, featuring a cowboy rounding up a trailing stray cow. Miss Texas Rodeo, Beth Murphy, joined Taylor on his hospital visit.

Bareback rider Chris Harris spent the morning of Feb. 11, before his rodeo performance, visiting inpatients at BAMC. He shared his rodeo mishaps and successes with soldiers while they traded war stories. Harris placed third overall in bareback riding during the 2006 competition.

Other big-name groups including Big and Rich and the Charlie Daniels Band provided the Soldier and Family Assistance Center with rodeo and concert tickets.

(Nelia Schrum and Andricka Hammonds are assigned to Brooke Army Medical Center.)

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Brooke Army Medical Center

Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Staff Sgt. Christopher Edwards and his wife, Tammy, talk with country music singer Clay Walker during a Feb. 14 visit to Brooke Army Medical Center. Edwards, a burn patient at BAMC, is usually in a wheelchair but insisted on standing when greeting Walker. Photo by Nelia Schrum  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageTexas legend Willie Nelson and his family band treat a packed audience of staff and patients to a concert Feb. 17 in the Medical Mall at Brooke Army Medical Center. Following his BAMC performance, he signed autographs and posed for pictures with patients and staff for another hour. Photo by Brian Guerra  
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