By: Sandy Wall
RALEIGH – Call this one Operation Allman Brothers.
About 100 Marines and airmen based in Eastern North Carolina were treated Sunday to a free rock ‘n’ roll road trip to see The Allman Brothers Band perform at Alltel Pavilion at Walnut Creek in Raleigh.
The event, which provided interested servicemen and servicewomen with free tickets and a bus ride to and from Raleigh, was put together by New Bern radio station WSFL, KFC of Eastern North Carolina and Pioneer Financial Services of Jacksonville.
Organizers of the “Let’s Roll, Welcome Home Military Convoy” said they wanted to thank returning troops for their service in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“It was something we wanted to do for the military for all the things they’ve done for us,” said Beth McCall of WSFL.
The troops said they got the message.
“I think it’s a real nice gesture,” Bryan Thrift, a 20-year-old Marine based at Camp Lejeune, said just moments before the legendary Southern rock and blues band took the stage. “It makes us feel appreciated.”
Earlier this summer, WSFL secured a block of lawn tickets for the Allman Brothers show from Alltel Pavilion, then gave them away to servicemen and servicewomen at a series of live broadcasts held across the region.
Organizers chartered three buses, which on Sunday picked up participants in Havelock, Jacksonville and at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro.
The troops were fed free chicken on the bus. Along the way, they got to see some rain-drenched Carolina countryside on their trip to Raleigh – a welcome sight after weeks in and over the desert.
“A lot of the guys on the bus were in the Iraq and haven’t been back long,” said WSFL’s Mike Carson.
Among them was 20-year-old Marine Noah Frediani, who arrived home July 1. He said he was looking forward to Sunday’s night show.
“I love the Allman Brothers,” he said.
For Marine reservist Rich Miller, Sunday night’s concert was like old times.
The 52-year-old Iowa man, who is stationed at New River Marine Corps Air Station in Jacksonville, saw The Allman Brothers Band perform live in Los Angeles in 1973 while he was serving in the Navy full-time during the Vietnam War.
“This is awesome,” he said. “This is kind of a trip back in time for me.”
Miller remembered he and his fellow servicemen waved their lighters in the air during the 1973 Allman Brothers concert.
“Now I’m holding my Geritol,” he said with a laugh.
Sandy Wall can be reached at (252) 527-3191, Ext. 251, or Sandy_Wall@link.freedom.com