Know Your Military

Musician Gene Simmons Visits Service Members, Tours Pentagon

May 17, 2019 | BY Terri Moon Cronk

The Pentagon is filled with thousands of visitors every day, but not many of them are world-famous heavy metal rockers.

Gene Simmons, bass guitarist, singer and co-founder of the rock band Kiss, said he made his trip to the Pentagon yesterday a priority after a service member attending a concert invited him to visit the building.

Famous musician Gene Simmons stands at a podium in the  pentagon briefing room.
KISS Brief
Gene Simmons of Kiss speaks to service members and civilians in the Pentagon briefing room during a visit to the Pentagon, May 16, 2019.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 190516-D-BN624-0076

“He thought I was going to brush him off,” Simmons said, “but I immediately called him and said, “When can we come?”

For Simmons, the Pentagon is a somewhat personal symbol. When his mother was 14, she was in a Nazi concentration camp, he said, and he is grateful for what the U.S. military has done for democracy and freedom around the world.

“America sacrificed above and beyond anything you’d ever imagine by going overseas and fighting multiple wars when we really didn’t have to go,” he said “We’re surrounded by oceans and land masses. We can stay here and let the world go to hell, but we don’t. We go out and sacrifice. … Only the military walks the walk.”

Famous musician Gene Simmons fist-bumps a service member on the stage in the pentagon briefing room.
KISS Fist Bump
Gene Simmons of Kiss fist-bumps a service member on the stage in the Pentagon briefing room, May 16, 2019.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 190516-D-BN624-0417
Famous musician Gene Simmons strums a guitar while wearing a #KNOWYOURMIL sign on his chest.
Guitar Shot
Gene Simmons of Kiss strums an acoustic guitar during a visit to the Pentagon, where he met military members and civilians and talked about the Defense Department’s “Know Your Military” initiative, May 16, 2019.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 190516-D-BN624-0650

Dressed in black leather and wearing his signature dark sunglasses, Simmons said he was happy, sad and nervous to take a tour, knowing that a commercial plane struck the building in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Kiss tours the world and fills huge arenas. The bassist and his bandmates are longtime supporters of the military, wounded warriors and veterans. During the Obama administration’s “Hiring Heroes” initiative aimed at helping veterans and military spouses to find jobs, Kiss was at the front of the line to offer a roadie job to a veteran.

“We complain about bad-hair days, and the coffee’s too hot, and all that stupid stuff we think is important,” he said. “But right now, somewhere in the world, the flag is flying high because there were people who volunteered to sacrifice.”

Simmons said he finds that most people don’t know much about the military, with only 1% of the population serving.

Famous musician Gene Simmons holds a guitar while standing next to three service members on the stage in the pentagon briefing room.
Stage Pose
Gene Simmons of Kiss brings service members onto the stage during a visit to the Pentagon briefing room, May 16, 2019.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 190516-D-BN624-0366

“People have a sweeping generalization that the military means the front line,” he added. “Most of [the military is composed of] the support staff: … people who are running this [video] camera, training dolphins and servicing tanks and planes.”

He encouraged people to educate themselves about the military.

“To all the young folks who like to get on social media and know how to type really fast with their thumbs, the military needs you!” Simmons said, addressing tech-savvy young people.

“Hell, come do this stuff with that stupid thumb movement you do. Come to the military and actually see how it’s a battle you can do, and they need your expertise.”

With serious things happening in the world, Simmons said, the U.S. military is a proud, volunteer organization. “And if you’re in high school or younger, you should take a look at the military. It’s a good job, and it’s going to open all kinds of doors.”

Video by Marine Corps Sgt. David Staten, DOD