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.
“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.”
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.
“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